TUSCALOOSA, Ala-The Lipscomb Lady Bisons cross country team made it known they are still a force to be reckoned with after a fourth place finish in the Crimson Classic in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Dani Walker led the Lady Bisons with a 10th place covering the 5-kilometer course at the Harry Pritchett Course at the University of Alabama in a time of 18:03.62. The Lady Bisons finished fourth in the 14-team field. Alabama was first followed by Tennessee and Mississippi State.
“We took a big step forward today,” Lipscomb cross country coach Bill Taylor said. “This was the best performance of the year for the women. They really fought hard for each other. I'm very happy and so is the team.
“I'm happy to say that the rumors of our demise were premature. Now we need to build on this big step we've taken forward and make the most out of all we have been through. Today was a big step forward though."
Tessa Hoefle and Maggie Lawrence also placed in the top 15 in the field of 135 runners. Hoefle crossed the finish line in 13th place with a time of 18:05.44 and Lawrence was 15th with a time of 18:08.63.
“Dani and Tessa ran their best races of the season,” Taylor said. “They put themselves up in the right race.
“Maggie had her best race as a collegiate runner. She just kept getting stronger throughout the race and moved all the way up. I think she got a taste of what she can do, and it's very exciting.”
Madeline Talbert placed 33rd (18:34.41) and Minna Fields finished 39th (18:42.06).
“Minna is working her way back up to where she was last year,” Taylor said. “She gets stronger every day, and while we want her all the way there now, she will be that much stronger in two weeks.”
Rounding out the finishers for the Lady Bisons were Kendra Lobley in 43rd place (18:48.73), Missy Dowd in 53rd (19:03.96), Hannah Munyan in 55th (19:04.87), Kellie Foley in 62nd (19:20.29), Kaitlyn Llewellyn in 63rd (19:22.35), Renee Menzie in 74th (19:34.59), Emily Longden in 79th (19:41.54), Amanda Twigg in 87th (19:54.01), Lana Hojeij in 93rd (20:00.11), Katie Bunker in 115th (20:51.70) and Makenna Rickner in 119th place (21:04.74).
“Kellie Foley just coming back from a season-long injury ran incredible in her first ever collegiate cross country race,” Taylor said. “She was in our top four or five until about the last half mile. She will move up rapidly with a few more weeks of training and her first race under her belt.
“Missy also ran her best race of the season. She always gets stronger as the season gets longer, and she is such a tough kid. Hannah rebounded today from a rough middle of the season and ran her best race of the year.”
The Lady Bisons received a major mental boost from the team performance. They lived up to the type of effort that has been expected of them since the start of the season.
“We have tons of room to improve still,” Taylor said. “The girls forced their way to success today. They knew they needed to make a statement to themselves. That's what they had to do. Now they have done it.
“Now they know for sure what they thought they knew, and can run free and relaxed next race. This is a mental launch pad. They've faced some of the best competition in the nation this season, got knocked onto the ropes, got up with willpower and faith, and are far better for it.”
While Taylor was thrilled with the outcome he knows there is a lot of work left before the Lady Bisons defend their Atlantic Sun Championship at the conference meet Oct. 27.
“I'm not saying we will win A-Sun,” Taylor said. “But no team has faced what we have this year and we are ready to give our best.
“You can't really pick one girl on our team, because there could be five faster on our team any given day. And if we get eight or nine to do it right on the same day, look out!”
Taylor likes the many options and combinations that are available as he plots a plan of success for his team which will hopefully end with a berth in the NCAA Nationals.
“We have key people who can get much better,” Taylor said. “Madi, who has been our No. 1 the past two meets, had a great first half and then struggled late today. That's not likely to happen again and we will help her.
“Kendra, who ran 16:41 last year as a freshman for a 5-K on the track, is getting better, but can be right up there too. Today opened up big possibilities for her. Kaitlyn struggled too, yet has shown she can run with anyone on our team in any given day. “
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations for Athletics.