NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Lipscomb cross country coach Bill Taylor makes no secret of the fact the he wants his team to be in the NCAA Nationals sooner rather than later.
Friday morning in Tallahassee, Fla., the Lady Bisons, back-to-back Atlantic Sun Champions, will participate in the NCAA South Regionals. The top two finishers in the South region are guaranteed spots in the Nationals. There is a chance that the third place team might earn an at-large bid. With host Florida State holding on to the No. 1 position in the country Taylor knows it will be a challenge for his women’s team.
“We are not focusing on Florida State,” said Taylor, named coach of the year for the second time in the A-Sun for women’s cross country. “We are not bothered by Florida State. They will run their race and we will run ours. We won’t be a factor for us.”
Last year the Lady Bisons finished seventh in the South Region, the best overall finish for an A-Sun team. The women will be competing on a 6,000-K course for the first time this season in the race. The Lady Bisons enter the race ranked sixth in the South Region by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. They will be one of seven A-Sun teams competing.
“Everybody but Madelin has run a 6-K before,” Taylor said. “We had a meeting the day after the conference meet to talk about what we are going to do in regionals. We have had two weeks to work on our strategy. We know the positions we need to be in.
“We were seventh last year. It would be nice to move up. On the women’s side we are going to run this race to set up the future as well even though we are in the upper tier of the region. This is really a learning session that will hopefully pay off this year. Even if it doesn’t we will gain a lot of value from this race that will help us next year when we will be older, stronger, wiser and better."
The roster is the same as the one for the A-Sun Championship. Dani Walker and Tessa Hoefle, both All A-Sun Conference First Team members, will be joined by Kendra Lobley, Madelin Talbert, Maggie Lawrence and Minna Fields, all Second Team A-Sun All-Conference; and Missy Dowd.
Hoefle also has been named A-Sun Scholar Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row.
Taylor thinks his team has a chance to qualify for this year’s Nationals, but he knows that goal will be a challenge.
“We have the talent and we have the training to be a threat to go to Nationals this year,” Taylor said. “We could qualify for Nationals this year, but it is unlikely in terms of our mental development.
“If we make a breakthrough and have the right kind of races on Friday we certainly have the talent and the depth. It would be wonderful if it happens.”
The mental side of running is what most concerns Taylor about his team. They have put together the best practices of the season in preparation for the race.
“We have to believe we are one of the top teams in the nation,” Taylor said. “When you believe it, you run like it. You put yourself in a different position in the race. You carry yourself differently. You think different things during the race.
“We are a team in transition. We have been growing and getting better every year. But we have to make that leap in mentality before you become elite in terms of performance. There is a mentality and belief that says we are as good as anybody here. I think Friday will be a good test of how much we have progressed this season.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.