NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For months the Lipscomb track and field squads have been preparing for this competition.
The teams will put their best foot forward as they compete in the 2014 Atlantic Sun Outdoor Championships Friday and Saturday.
"We are really excited for the A-Sun Championships,” said Bill Taylor, director of track and field. “While the regular season is important, especially in posting personal records and improving marks, the championship part of our season is even more fun because all focus is on the competition.
“Tactics, the will to win, guts, and more are all in play and most important in the championships. Sometimes you run faster than ever before, or jump higher or throw farther, and sometimes you win with a mark less than your best, but every bit as well earned.”
Tucker Peabody, the reigning 200-meter champion at the outdoor championships, will be absent from conference competition due to injury.
"Tucker is out with a torn calf and a partially torn achilles,” Taylor said. “That is a big blow to our team as he has really led the way for the men's track team the past three years.
“Not only in the 100 meters and 200 meters, we also lose him in both of our relays. That's pretty big.”
Taylor believes with Peabody out, Colin Dempster will have the opportunity to stand out for the men.
“He will compete in the 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters and both the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relays,” Taylor said. “He is ranked first in the 400 meters, comes in as the number one entry in the 200 meters, and is right in the mix in the 100 meters.
“He runs a leg of the 4x100-meter relay and anchors our 4x400-meter relay that is ranked first. Tucker was a big loss for that relay, but we ran nearly an identical time to our conference leading time last weekend without him, so we know that Kenny Smith, Brian Gentry and Nelson Scott will join Colin to still make a relay that is tough to beat.”
The men hope to bring home another win in the hurdles events this weekend after sweeping the events in last year’s championships.
"Last year our men swept the 400-meter hurdles and put two men on the podium in the 100-meter hurdles,” Taylor said. “We are thinner this year, especially with the loss of Wayne Newman (A-Sun 60-meter hurdle indoor champ).
“The 100-meter hurdles will be a challenge for us, but we have two guys (Ryan Whitley and Jordan Pitcher) who could surprise. We still feel good about the 400-meter hurdles. Returning All-Conference runners Nelson Scott and Ryan Whitley (second and third last year) are ready and capable.”
Gemikal Prude will appear in the high jump with hopes of earning his second victory at the conference championships.
"Gemikal Prude is obviously a big highlight for the men in the field events,” Taylor said. “He is the defending A-Sun outdoor track champion in the high jump and now has National Championship experience under his belt. I know he is ready to go.”
April Terry seeks to build off her strong performances throughout the season to pick up her first championship win in the throwing events.
"April Terry is always a big emphasis in the field events,” Taylor said. “April had an uncharacteristic stretch late in the season, but had been very busy as our Student Athlete Advisory Committee president and creating the Athletic Department Lippy Awards event. Now that the semester is over, April has been able to focus and relax a bit, and I know she wants to finish the season strong.
Pole vaulter Kevin Floyd is also hoping for a first-place victory to better his strong showing from last year’s championships.
"Kevin Floyd finished second in the pole vault last year and looks to improve on that finish,” Taylor said. “We have other vaulters, throwers and jumpers that are rising up too. We could have a really good meet in the field events.”
Dani Walker, coming off a minor injury, should be performing at 100 percent as she takes part in the distance events.
"Dani Walker is always one of the top distance runners to watch,” Taylor said. “For the second year in a row she has missed the later part of the season with an injury, and for the second year in a row, will be back just in time to race at A-Sun. She did a bit on the track Wednesday, and it's pretty clear she has all her speed still.”
Taylor believes fellow distance runners Sally Larson and Kelsey Ibarra will be the potential favorite in the 10,000 meters. Madi Talbert will also be competing in her specialty, the 3000-meter steeplechase.
“Madi Talbert, defending A-Sun 3000-meter steeplechase champion and an NCAA I National Championship Finals qualifier last year, has her hands full this year, coming in ranked third in the conference,” Taylor said. “The conference keeps getting stronger and stronger, and I think all of our 5000-meter entries can contend for the conference title (Sally, Madi, Kelsey, Minna Fields, and Barbara Lee Ball).”
The men are also expected to be contenders in the distance events.
"For the men, Andrew Bosket is a legit contender for the 800-meter title,” Taylor said. “Daniel Gardner will be in the mix in the 10,000 meters.
“Juan Gonzalez, Jared Daedler and Daniel Gardner will be in contention in the 5000 meters. Unfortunately, one of our standouts, freshman Christian Freeman, is out with an injury.”
The Bisons have put forth strong efforts throughout the regular season, which they hope will ultimately pay off at conference.
"So we look to this meet all year and plan to be at our best here, and at the national championships for those that qualify,” Taylor said. “In fact, to some extent, the late part of the regular season can feel a bit stale. The goal and desire is to be here, fighting for points and championships. It's a lot of fun for our kids.”
The championships are set to begin Friday morning at 9:30 and will conclude Saturday starting at 9:00 a.m.