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Cross country teams set to open 2012 season

Thursday, August 30, 2012
by Mark McGee

Sometimes success can depend on the smallest bit of information.

Lipscomb coach Bill Taylor is expecting both his men’s and women’s cross country teams to finish strong this season. But, when they open the 2012 season in two different locations Friday night Taylor is more interested in seeking information than high finishes.

Taylor and assistant coach Luke Syverson will be traveling with the top 14 women and top nine men to Fort Myers, Fla., for the FGCU Invitational. The cross country course, known as the Buckingham Property, will also be the site of the Atlantic Sun Cross Country Championships.

“The group going down to Florida Gulf Coast is not going to be racing all out,” Taylor said. “We are there more to gather information for the end of the season.

“We have never seen the Florida Gulf Coast course before. I don’t know what times will mean there.”

Assistant coaches Jenny Randolph and Marcus Evans will take the rest of the team members on a short trip to the Vaughn’s Creek Course at Percy Warner Park for the Belmont Invitational. The women’s 4-K starts at 5:30. The men’s 5-K gets underway at 6 p.m.

“The group that runs at Belmont will be interesting,” Taylor said. “We have some kids who have been dinged up who weren’t able to qualify for Florida. The times will be more important in the Belmont meet because we will compare those to previous years.”

Taylor will also be finding out more about his runners in race conditions. The top runners were chosen for the opening meets based on time trials over a two-mile course.

“I’m not sure what our expectations are in either meet,” Taylor said. “We are a little behind in our training. We are about two weeks off from where we were last year.

“I’m looking, primarily, for how people interact with each other, how tough they are, their strategy and their tactics.”

The Lady Bisons, the defending A-Sun Champions, are picked to repeat in a preseason poll by conference coaches. They enter the season ranked seventh in the South Region by the USTFCCCA.

“For the women we are trying to make that jump to the next level,” Taylor said. “We want to give our best shot to repeat as conference champs, but at the same time we want to set up the team to qualify for nationals. Our expectations are pretty high.”

Conference coaches have picked the Bison men to finish third in the A-Sun. In the USTFCCCA preseason poll the men’s squad is ranked 12th in the South Region.

“With the men we are looking for our first conference championship,” Taylor said. “There is a lot more youth on the men’s team. The four freshmen guys, Elliott Ramirez, Daniel Gardner,  Matt Fry and Matt Hall  going down to Florida Gulf Coast are going to be in the fire right away.”

In the Belmont Invitational the freshmen and some veteran runners who have been dealing with injuries, will be of particular interest to Taylor.

“Ryan Gadsey, who was in our top four last year, will be running at Belmont,” Taylor said. “He had a little bit of an injury to start the season. We would like to see where he is at in terms of progress.

“Our top freshmen, Austin Casassa and Grant Stromberg have been dinged up so they didn’t qualify for Florida. We are kind of curious about where they are going to be. They were really fast in high school. We would like to see them progress and be in the mix and help us later in the season.”

Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations for Athletics.