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Friday, October 31, 2008The Lipscomb men’s and women’s cross country teams head into the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., Saturday morning ready to get noticed.
“I think they are motivated,” said coach Bill Taylor who works with both the Bisons and Lady Bisons. I think they are excited.”
Both teams enter the championships ranked sixth in the conference. The men have never finished higher than fifth (2004) and the women have never been higher than sixth (2005, 2006, 2007) in NCAA Division I competition in the A-Sun.
“One of our goals is to finish better than our rankings on both sides,” said Taylor. “We are in a really good position. There is really no pressure. We are free to go run and if we run we are going to better than what people expect us to be.
“We want everyone to run together. We want them all to run to their abilities. We have seen amazing things in practice, but they haven’t always translated to a meet. “
Taylor is interested in seeing if his teams are better than the rankings by his fellow coaches. Just how well they will do depends on a number of factors on race day.
“I can’t say those rankings are not accurate,” said Taylor. “I just don’t think they are. But we know we have to prove things like that.
“I think our guys are several places better than that potentially. I think our women could finish as low as seventh or as high as first or second. That is why we run the races. We’ll see what happens.”
Taylor stressed that one of the big keys to the championship meet is to make sure there are no big changes from previous race days in terms of preparation.
“You want to make sure your runners are focused,” said Taylor. “We don’t want them over thinking anything.
“We have been working on things all year with our eyes in the championships at the end. We have been trying to get a little bit better every week and in every meet. By doing that what we are doing at the championships is not that extraordinary. We want them to do what they have discovered they are capable of doing. We are just trying to put it all together.”
Ryan Chastain has been the leader for the Bisons this season with Nathan Brame usually in the second spot. Carolyn Latham, sidelined for much of the season due to health reasons, is back and ready to reclaim her No. 1 spot on the Lady Bisons.
“Ryan is clearly our No. 1 right now,” said Taylor. “He has been about a minute faster than our No. 2 runner. He has really stepped up this year. I expect our other runners to be 20 or 30 seconds closer to Ryan.
“He is racing smart. His tactics are better. When he makes mistakes he knows what they are. He has been really good at adjusting. Last year he would get tense. Now he goes out and does what he can, learns from it and moves on.”
Latham’s gap is not as big. With Latham out of some meets three other runners stepped up to fill the No. 1 spot.
“All nine girls we are putting out there could be in any order on race day,” said Taylor. “If you look at the conference rankings we are by far the deepest team in the conference right now. But we have less room for error than any team.”
Taylor, in his second year coaching at Lipscomb, knows he has to be patient. But he would like to have two top three or top four finishes.
“That would be a huge day for this program and a huge step forward in the right direction,” said Taylor. “I have every confidence that we are going to be at the top of the conference very soon.
“I would love for it to be now. But there are things going on that are setting us up for the future. Everything is coming together really nicely for a very, very bright future and being one of the top teams not only in the conference but in the region and in the nationals.”