NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb women’s cross country squad looks to continue its rise of dominance on the course and bring home its fourth-straight Atlantic Sun Championship Saturday in DeBary,Florida.
"The women are really excited to race,” said Bill Taylor, director of cross country. “Although our biggest goals are for the regional championships and trying to qualify for nationals, they take great pride in our excellence within the A-Sun. They want to do this right and we are definitely focused on this race and how we want to race it.”
The Lady Bisons are the top team from the conference holding a steady fourth-place ranking in the USTFCCCA South Regional poll behind Florida State, Vanderbilt, and Alabama.
"We've had a lot of success this year,” Taylor said. “We've raced in some of the biggest meets in the nation. In every race prior to this one, we have faced at least one and usually many top-30 NCAA Division I teams.
“It will be nice to be able to see. I think the A-Sun race will allow us to do some things we haven't done yet this season, which will also make us stronger for regionals.”
Taylor believes the women don’t realize how well their practices have been leading up to the championships.
"We are an elite team in practice, and you can't be an elite team in practice and not have the ability to be elite in competition,” Taylor said. “It's simply a mental thing and when they race like they train they will shock the country. This A-Sun race is an opportunity to test that out.”
Junior Madi Talbert is the top runner in the conference in the women’s 5-K with a time of 17:19.08 picking up three A-Sun Runner of the Week honors this year.
"Madi has been awesome,” Taylor said. “She has listened to the race plans really well and has been courageous in putting herself in great position. The maturity this season is incredible, and her words to her teammates have been both encouraging and correctly demanding.
“She is relaxed up in the front of races. She has made that mental transition that makes racing fast look easy. It's a mindset. Yet, she has room for improvement too. She has tuned out just a bit in the second half. Once she solves that she will be one of the top runners in the nation.”
Talbert has seen running time in only three meets this year, but that has been all she needs to prove she is a top-notch runner. She finished 12th at the Louisville Classic clocking in at 17:19.1 and 33rd in the Pre-National Invitational logging a time of 21:21.0.
Alongside Talbert, four other Lady Bisons rank in the conference’s top 10 5-K runners including Paige Stoner, Kayla Montgomery, Barbara Lee Ball, and Dani Walker.
"Although we haven't really had anyone else with Madi yet, we have at least six women who can be right with her,” Taylor said. “They are in practice. They have talent. It's that last final decision they have to make. Among them are Paige, who is a freshman phenom who just needs to relax and trust and stick. Dani Walker, who has been a dominant force in the A-Sun throughout her career and can do anything she wants at any time.
“Sally Larson, our top runner at A-Sun last year and A-Sun Freshman of the Year. She just needs to give in and believe and anything will be possible for her. Barbara Lee Ball, one of the hardest workers and toughest runners I have ever coached. When she relaxes, focuses on task and lets herself go, she can do anything. Kayla Montgomery has had a bit of a calf issue and it might have shaken her confidence just a bit, but she has a powerful internal drive and just needs to free herself and go compete. She's a tough kid who runs best when she runs like there is no tomorrow. Finally, in our top group, Minna (Fields) has improved so much and I know there is a big breakthrough waiting for her to claim.”
Larson, the Preseason Runner of the Year, is the top returning runner from last year’s championship race. She finished fourth with a time of 17:53.28.
"It's been a fun year,” Taylor said. “The team is so close and the girls are so motivated. I have really enjoyed seeing the transition and the growth they have all made.
“I would like to see them make those final few decisions that will change everything and give them the maximum payoff. I like where we are headed."
The women’s race is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m.