LakePoint, Ga. – Lipscomb juniors Juan Gonzalez and Kacey Kemper have been named the ASUN Men’s and Women’s Most Outstanding Track Performers for the 2017 outdoor championship season, as announced by the league offices on Thursday.
It is the first time in school history that Lipscomb has swept the two awards for one championship meet.
The two joined three previous Lipscomb winners for the honor: Tucker Peabody in 2013 and Madi Talbert in 2015 for Outdoor and Wayne Newman during this season’s Indoor Championship.
Gonzalez earned the honor after taking first place in each of the events he entered at the ASUN Outdoor Championships. The California native won the 1500m with a time of 3:49.72 and turned in a winning performance of 14:37.71 in the 5000m.
"Juan had another stellar Conference Championship, adding to what he already accomplished at Indoor where he won the 3000m and the 5000m,” Lipscomb Director of Track and Field Bill Taylor said. “He has had an amazing season and his performances at ASUN were excellent. It's not easy to get two wins at Conference. He faces amazing competition from a whole bunch of great North Florida guys and from his own teammates.”
Gonzalez’s victory in the 5000m was the first-ever win for Lipscomb in the event at the Outdoor Championships, while the 1500m win was the team’s first since 2010 and second overall.
“The 1500m was very tactical, and Juan had to come from behind down the home stretch to get that win,” Taylor said. “It was super exciting. In the 5000m, he and Jake led the whole thing before Juan pulled away in the last lap or two to win fairly easily. Despite helping lead the whole thing and running a controlled pace, he barely missed the meet record, which is pretty amazing.
“It's been really fun to watch Juan grow and mature as a person and as a racer. He's really calm. He looks comfortable out there. It's great for him and for our team."
Kemper also earned two conference championships over the weekend. She competed in four events total, landing on the podium in three of them.
“Kacey had a big challenge at Conference,” Taylor said. “Winning the steeple, then coming back to compete in three more long events is really tough. She ran a very smart 1500m race for her second win. We knew it was going to be tough to get the 800m too, but she loves the 800m, and she had nothing to lose.”
She finished first in both the 1500m and the 3000m Steeplechase with times of 4:28.70 and 10:41.58, respectively. She also placed third in the 800m with a 2:11.20 mark and ran the anchor leg for Lipscomb in the 4x400m relay.
“We had a lightening delay that changed the meet schedule and dramatically shortened the time between the 1500m and the 800m,” Taylor said. “She literally did a warm down/warm up after the 1500m and was already on the line for the 800m. We can't say that schedule change cost her another win, but it did have an effect.
“Despite that she almost won it anyway, running another terrific race, closing hard down the homestretch to finish less than a second off the win to earn her third ASUN honors and a PR. She didn't have to run the 4x400m relay, but she asked to. So after all the other races, she anchored the relay with a sub-60 split. She definitely deserves this honor."
Kemper’s win in the steeplechase stretched Lipscomb’s reign in the event out to seven consecutive seasons, while her win in the 1500m was the first in program history.
“Kacey has been such an incredible story this year,” Taylor said. “It started in cross country. About a third of the way into the season, she was varsity and just kept moving up the roster and putting great races together. She put up some terrific PR"s in the Indoor season and was poised to have an incredible Indoor Conference Championships.
“Unfortunately, she was one of the girls who got super sick and couldn't compete. She was really, really sick too, and lost about three weeks of training there, and it took us a few more weeks to work her back. It would have been really easy to give in or for her to think that she lost too much and didn't have a chance.
“Instead, she just got back into it and worked her way back. I knew she could run the steeple very fast. It almost felt like she was surprised when she put up a time that qualified for the National Prelims at Alabama. But, then she never looked back and has run nice PR's in the 800m and 1500m too.”
Lipscomb was the only school to win one of the Outdoor honors outside of Kennesaw State, as the Owls won the Most Outstanding Male and Female Field Performers and Freshman Performers. Kennesaw’s Terrell Singleton also tied Gonzalez for the Most Outstanding Male Performer.
Gonzalez and Kemper helped the Bisons to a program-best second-place finish on the men’s side at the ASUN Championships and a third-place finish in the women’s competition.
Both juniors qualified for the NCAA East Region Prelims and will continue their season in Lexington, Kentucky on May 25.