NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Bill Taylor was happy with the outcome, but he didn’t care much for the process.
Saturday morning at the Vaughn’s Gap course at Percy Warner Park the Lady Bisons earned their third consecutive Atlantic Sun Cross Country Championship.
The Lady Bisons finished with 32 points easily besting ETSU in second place with 84.
It is the fifth best winning score in A-Sun history and the best since 1993. It also ties for the largest margin of victory in the A-Sun Championships.
But Taylor, the 2013 A-Sun Coach of the Year for women’s cross country and director of Lipscomb’s cross country and track and field teams, wanted more.
“Morale was not particularly high,” Taylor said. “The men ran almost a perfect race, if not a perfect race and I think in some ways that might have put more pressure on the women before they ran their race. There was a lot more tension than I would have ever expected.
“There were a lot of things that came together to have us not at our absolute best. We maybe let that get the best of us a little bit. Fortunately, we are so strong, so deep and so talented that on our worst day of the year we can still win the conference.”
Sally Larson led the Lady Bisons with a fourth place time of 17:53.28 on the 5-K course. Larson, the highest finishing freshman, was awarded A-Sun Freshman of the Year becoming the second Lady Bisons runner to receive the honor after junior Dani Walker won in 2010.
“Sally is an amazing runner,” Taylor said. “She has a great engine. She is a very positive person. She can run strong for a very long time.
“Sally didn’t look as good today as she has looked this season. She ran a little bit slower even though she led the way for us. This was a learning experience for everybody, especially for her.”
Senior Tessa Hoefle was fifth (17:58.47), sophomore Madeline Talbert was sixth (18:13.74) and Walker finished seventh (18:17.04).
Larson, Hoefle, Talbert and Walker were all named to the A-Sun All-Conference First Team. Hoefle and Walker are the first Lipscomb runners to earn All-Atlantic Sun honors three times. Talbert has twice been named to the All-Conference team.
Walker’s finish was impressive since she was running despite an ankle injury.
“We literally limped into the conference meet this year,” Taylor said. “Dani rolled her ankle in practice last Saturday and had not run until today. We got her taped up and put her on the line and hoped for the best.
“We made the decision on Thursday when final injuries were due. We were kind of locked in from there.”
Freshman Hannah Feiten was 10th for the Lady Bisons with a time of 18:23.18. Fellow rookie Barbara Lee Ball was 11th with a time of 18:30.14.
“Madi and Hannah had both been sick all week,” Taylor said. “It was a really, really rough week.”
Also in the top 20 for the Lady Bisons were junior Kaitlyn Llewellyn (18:52.94) in 17th place and freshman Kelsey Ibarra in 18th with a time of 18:54.00.
Junior Kendra Lobley rounded out the finishers for the Purple and Gold in 21st place with a time of 18:56.37.
Feiten and Ball were named Second Team All-Conference. Larson, Feiten, Ball and Ibarra were named to the A-Sun All-Freshman Team. The four selections tied the conference record for the most runners on the All-Freshman Team.
Placing six runners on the A-Sun All-Conference Team also ties a conference record.
The next challenge for the Lady Bisons will be the NCAA South Region Nov. 15 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“We have some serious work to do before the regional meet,” Taylor said. “We have to work on everything. We will have a meeting tonight and start talking about regionals and what went well today and what didn’t go well.
“We tempoed this course as good as or better than we raced it today. It was a serious mental thing today. The good news is we can work through that. Mental things can be solved quickly. We have to get back on the right track quickly.”