NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With the school’s first-ever Atlantic Sun cross country championship achieved in November, head coach Bill Taylor has high expectations for his women’s track and field team, which begins the after-Christmas portion of the schedule Saturday at Tennessee State’s Ed Temple Classic, inside the Gentry Center at 8 a.m.
Joining Lipscomb and the host Tigers at this event will be Alabama A&M, Austin Peay, Chattahoochee Tech, Florida A&M, Jackson State, MTSU, Savannah State and Western Kentucky.
“We are a distance-strong women’s team,” Taylor said. “In addition, we have key contributors in the sprints from Sara Stephens, and the throws from April Terry, and are developing others. I think Brenna Thompson is going to develop really well too.”
Stephens, a junior, is the school record holder in both indoor and outdoor 400m dash and part of relay teams holding school records in the 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x400m and distance medley. She ran a strong leg for the conference-champion distance medley team at last season’s A-Sun Indoor Championships, breaking the meet record in the process.
Thompson, a freshman, will learn from Stephens and complement her in the sprints and relays.
“I am really excited about the women’s 4x400m relay,” Taylor said. “The 4x400 in our conference is very strong and keeps getting stronger, so I don’t know how we will do at the A-Sun level ultimately, but I think we are going to have a very fast and very dynamic relay this year. There are a lot of women who can earn a spot.”
Terry is one of the recruits Taylor is most excited about, and with good reason. At the Dec. 10 MTSU Christmas Invite, she set Lipscomb women’s marks in the shot put (11.21m; 36’ 9.50”) and weight throw (12.33m; 40’ 5.50”) in her first collegiate meet.
“I think April Terry is going to be fun to watch in the throws,” Taylor said. “She is a wonderful person with a ton of talent and she works really hard.”
The distance team is one of the most dominant in the conference, and the depth is not limited to cross country stars like sophomore Tessa Hoefle (first-team all-conference in cross country, school 5000m record-holder) and senior Ashley Lehman (first-team all-conference in cross country).
Senior Catherine Beals won last season’s 3000m steeplechase for her second all-conference honor. Junior Amanda Twigg was an all-conference performer in the 1500m run during outdoor season and and was part of the A-Sun champion distance medley team during indoor season in 2011, along with sophomore Katie Bunker.
Senior Louisa Van Batavia, sophomores Missy Dowd, Emily Longden and Alex Newby and freshmen Minna Fields, Megan McClain, Kellie Foley, Maggie Lawrence, Kendra Lobley and Kaitlyn Llewellyn are among other distance and middle distance runners Taylor expects to contribute.
“I expect to have five or six girls in the 16s (minutes) for 5000m this year,” Taylor said. “I think all of our distance records will fall again, probably multiple times during the season. We’ve built this great atmosphere here where the distance girls really help each other get faster, both in practice and competition. It should be really fun.”
Sophomore Dani Walker is expected to return from a broken foot that sidelined her during a large portion of the cross country season. The school record holder in multiple disciplines, including the 800m, mile, 4x400m and distance medley relays in indoor, Walker qualified for the U.S. Junior Nationals in four events and finished 12th in the nation in the 5000m run. She may remain sidelined during indoor season but will be back at full-strength by outdoor season.
“It will be interesting to see how quickly Dani Walker recovers from her broken foot,” Taylor said. “Fortunately, we have a lot of depth in every distance and middle distance events.”
The distance teams will not get going until Jan. 27 at ETSU’s Niswonger Invitational in Johnson City.
Once basketball season ends, Taylor’s team will be enhanced with the arrival of basketball players O’Neisha Smith, Anna Bowers and Brittany Duerk. Smith is the reigning conference champion in the high jump, while Bowers is the school record-holder in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m and long jump.
Last season, the Lipscomb teams put together a solid day at the Ed Temple Classic, led by the women’s distance medley relay team. The A-team won by nearly 21 seconds and finished with a 12:17.47s mark.
Lipscomb will continue the indoor season next weekend at the Saluki Booster in Carbondale, Ill.
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