Cross country begins season with win at Belmont Opener
Saturday, September 5, 2015
By Logan Butts
Cross country begins season with win at Belmont Opener

NASHVILLE – The Lipscomb cross country squads jumped off to a winning start to the 2015 campaign thanks to a pair of top-two finishes at the Belmont Opener.

The women’s team earned a score of 32, 14 points lower than second place, on its way to winning the Opener and defeating nationally-ranked Vanderbilt for the first time in program history. The men took second overall with a score of 57, placing behind MTSU.

"We had a good day on both sides,” Lipscomb Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Bill Taylor said. “It was the first time in school history that we have beaten Vanderbilt on the women's side. And for the men to finish second without four of our top guys is pretty incredible.

"Getting the win over Vanderbilt is a nice confidence booster. They didn't run at least two of their top girls. If you plug them into the race it would have been very tight. I kind of think we would have lost by a point or two. Not bad either way when you consider they are the 22 ranked team in the nation.”

The Lady Bisons landed four of the top ten and seven of the top 20 racers for the day.

"It's also noteworthy that we run this course a lot,” Taylor said. “We race here two to three times each season. Three of our times today ranked in our all-time top 10 on this course. 

“We never get top 10 times from the Belmont meet. It's the first meet of the season and it's always hot. It was very hot and humid today, and we posted some of the strongest times we've ever seen in this race. In fact, we had four times faster than any Lipscomb woman has ever run at the Belmont Opener.”

Junior Sally Larson finished fourth with a time of 17:34, followed closely by junior Barbara Lee Ball in sixth at 17:42, freshman Brooke Kingma at seventh in 17:45 and sophomore Paige Stoner in ninth at 17:51.  

"Sally really ran a terrific race,” Taylor said. “She was smart early and strong late and charged through the upper part of the race to finish fourth. Barbara Lee was strong early and worked hard to hold on. Freshman Brooke Kingma had an incredible debut. She is so strong. Fellow freshman Kelli Nesky was the surprise of the day, finishing as our number five runner.”

Nesky took 13th overall (18:01), Preseason A-Sun Female Runner of the Year Madi Talbert finshed 14th (18:07) and redshirt senior Kate Bucknam grabbed the 18th spot (18:14).

“Although we ran well, the girls have a lot of things that can be improved,” Taylor said. “They were very aware of what they did well, and what they need to work on. We have a lot of room for growth. The purpose of this meet is to see what needs to be fixed. I definitely feel we got a lot out of it.”

The men landed two runners in the top five and four in the top 20 on the way to their second place finish.

"We are really proud of the men,” Taylor said. “To race without our top four returners, and still finish second in the meet ahead of regionally-ranked teams, is a testament to our depth, talent and desire. They really competed hard and showed a ton of pride.”

Junior Jake Poyner (15:21) blazed to a third place spot and freshman Andrew Ayers (15:36) snagged seventh. Freshman Psalm Ocampo (15:48) and senior Sean Hurd (16:00) both snagged top 20 spots as well, finishing 11th and 17th respectively.

"Jake Poyner ran brilliantly, right with the top three the whole race,” Taylor said. “He really set the tone for the team, and will be another powerful runner up in our top five. Freshmen Andrew Ayers and Psalm Ocampo stepped up big to finish as our second and third runners. They are going to be so good as they develop at this level. Sean Hurd also made a nice push for the team.”

At the North Florida A-Sun Preview, the top four returning men’s runners for the Bisons (Jared Wingerter, Daniel Gardner, Christian Freeman, Juan Gonzalez) all finished with a  time of 26:59 in what was a tune-up for the A-Sun season.

"Today served its purpose,” Taylor said. “Both teams walk away with more confidence and more clarity about what to do again and what to improve. It was a very nice season opening meet."