JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was a strong weekend for the Purple and Gold in Jacksonville, Florida, as the Bisons earned six first-place finishes and 20 total All-Conference spots at the ASUN Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
"This was one of the more exciting ASUN Championships we have had,” Lipscomb Director of Track and Field Bill Taylor said. “We had a lot of great things happen.”
Juniors Kacey Kemper and Juan Gonzalez led the way for the Bisons, as they each grabbed two wins over the weekend.
Kemper competed in four events total, picking up wins in both the 1500m and the 3000m Steeplechase. In the 1500m she posted a time of 4:28.70, while in the Steeplechase she finished in 10:41.58.
"Kacey raced so well,” Taylor said. “She took care of business in the 3000m Steeplechase on Friday. Her victory there is the seventh in a row for Lipscomb in the women's steeplechase. It's an event we take immense pride in.”
Kemper took third in the 800m with a 2:11.20 mark to give her a third podium finish for the meet. She also ran the anchor leg for the Lady Bisons 4x400m relay team.
“She ran a brilliant 1500m race on Saturday. The big thing on Saturday was we had an hour lightening delay. When we got back to competition, they went to a rolling schedule, which meant that Kacey had a lot less time between the 1500m and the 800m.
“So, after running within a second of her 1500m PR, she did a small warm-down and it was already time to race the 800m. Despite that, she came in third and ran her all-time PR in the 800m, and was still about a second from another win. It was a great championship meet for Kacey.”
Gonzalez swept each of the events he raced in. He placed first in the 1500m with a time of 3:49.72 and turned in a winning performance of 14:37.71 in the 5000m.
"Juan set up both his races perfectly,” Taylor said. “The 1500m win was spectacular, coming from about fourth I think in the last 100m to win it. The 5000m was a workman performance. He and Jake set the pace, and Juan just pulled away at the end. We are really proud of all the guys, and Juan in particular. He has really matured in his confidence and his tactics. He is setting the tone for the whole men's team.”
Junior Jacob Poyner finished fourth in the same events, with times of 3:51.28 and 14:41.46, respectively.
Lipscomb swept the podium in the men’s 800m, as sophomore Ryan Speer (1:50.14), freshman Nathan Morgan (1:50.40), and sophomore Austin Ray (1:51.50) took the top three spots. Spper and Morgan each went under the school outdoor record for the event.
"The sweep in the men's 800m was a huge highlight for us,” Taylor said. “The race was fast and yet it was really bunched up for at least 500m with a lot of guys in contention. Ryan pulled away down the back stretch; Nathan followed.
“Coming down the home stretch it looked like those two were going to go 1-2. Austin was the surprise. It felt like he came out of nowhere to surge down the homestretch to get third at the line. All three guys ran PR's. Austin dropped three seconds off his PR. It's really hard to sweep any event at the Championships. That was fun for everyone in our program.”
Senior Wayne Newman grabbed the Bisons sixth win, as he finished first in the 400m hurdles with a time of 51.96 seconds.
"Wayne had a big day in multiple ways,” Taylor said. “He started Saturday with a stellar third leg of the 4x100m, which put us in second with a strong lead over third and set up our second place finish.”
He made a trip to the podium on three more occasions as he finished third in the 110m hurdles with a 14.10-second mark and helped both the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams to second-place finishes.
“In the 110m High Hurdles he got out well, and then just seemed a bit off through the middle. I know he was disappointed to finish third. Yet, that happens sometimes. Not every race goes perfectly. He was up against great competition, and he was just a bit off. Character is how someone responds to that. Wayne hugged and high fived his competition. Then he came back in the 400m hurdles and demolished the field.”
Joining Newman on the podium in the 4x100m relay were freshmen Brandon Belloni and Ahmed Amaar and senior Aaron Beckwith.
"In both relays we were ranked fourth or fifth,” Taylor said. “To get two second-place finishes was incredible. The 4x100m relay was the most surprising. We had to scrap to find an alternate. Aaron is our top pole vaulter. He doesn't sprint. He has battled injuries all season. Coach Marcus Evans asked him to anchor our 4x100m as essentially an emergency backup for us.
“Aaron got that baton in second and powered his way to the finish to keep it in second. I don't think Aaron will mind me saying that it wasn't pretty. It was impressive though. Again, to see a guy selling out for his team, giving everything he had, and then some. He carried the weight of three guys on his shoulders and got them all across the finish line in second. It was awesome.”
The 800m trio of Speer, Morgan, and Ray joined Newman on the podium in the 4x400m relay.
"We decided to put the three 800m guys with Wayne on the 4x400m relay,” Taylor said. “All four guys ran incredible, with three splitting in the 48's and one in the 49's. Wayne literally gave everything he had to secure the second place finish. He collapsed after he crossed the finish line, and after hurdling over a competitor that was already on the ground. He literally had nothing left in him.
“That is the true goal out here. To know that whatever the result, you gave everything you possibly had. To know that you don't have a single thing left in the tank. That is the truest goal in athletics.”
Freshman Ahmed Amaar earned two All-Conference spots, placing second in the 200m in 21.41 seconds and third in the 100m with a time of 10.63 seconds.
"Our sprints are getting better and better,” Taylor said. “Ahmed got on the podium in both the 100m and the 200m. Ahmed, Teanna Jules and Abbey McMurray all had either PR's or season bests. In the hurdles, Abby Newby did the same. We are building our sprints and hurdles, and their performances are setting the foundation for big things to come.”
Senior Katie Bianchini grabbed a pair of third-place finishes in the 1500m and 5000m. She ran times of 4:40.44 and 17:36.25, respectively.
"Katie Bianchini picked up two third place All-Conference honors,” Taylor said. “You could say they were unlikely honors. In terms of talent, they would be expected. In terms of situation, they wouldn't be.
“Katie was diagnosed with mono about four weeks ago. We were given instructions that she was safe to try things, but that we needed to modify greatly. Despite that, Katie battled through and stepped up for herself in her last collegiate meet and for the team.”
Junior Katie Sperry finished right behind Bianchini in fourth with a time of 17:44.60.
Senior Barbara Lee Ball earned second in the 10,000m with a 35:31.79 time. Junior Avery Franklin (38:23.65) and sophomore Bridgette Doucet (38:56.55) grabbed fourth and fifth, respectively.
"Barbara Lee ran a gutsy 10,000m on Friday night,” Taylor said. “She ran side-by-side with North Florida’s Eden Meyer almost the whole race.”
Finishing just behind Kemper’s win in the 3000m Steepelchase was sophomore Clare Losito with a time of 11:06.60.
“Clare Losito got a terrific second place in the 3000m Steeplechase to help us go 1-2 in that event,” Taylor said. “Clare has improved so much this year, and I am really excited to see her keep growing, maturing and improving.
“Katie Sperry, Clare and Hannah Owens ran tough in the 5000m. All three are back next year, and I can see they are all on the verge of big breakthroughs.”
In the men’s 3000m Steeplechase, freshmen Kaleb Kunes and William Kachman finished side-by-side on the podium in second and third. The freshmen put up times of 9:30.17 and 9:32.96, respectively.
Senior Sydney Sloan and junior Kade Hinkle led the way in the field events. Sloan finished fourth in the pole vault with a 3.27 leap, while Hinkle also finished fourth with a 41.17 toss in the discus throw.
"It was also great to see Sydney Sloan and Kade Hinkle pickup important fourth-place finishes for the team in their events,” Taylor said.
Overall, the men earned their highest-ever finish as they accumulated 131 points to finish second. The women placed fourth with 74 total points.
"For most of the team, this was the end of their season,” Taylor said. “So I want to thank all of our athletes for their hard work and effort this year. I want to thank our assistant coaches for their tireless work and long hours.
“Marcus coaches all non-distance athletes right now. He is running around all over the place both at practice and at meets taking care of athletes in many different events.
“Benton takes care of the men's distance runners. He is balancing building a team of high-powered veterans with an upcoming very talented group of young guys. That can be a bit of a roller coaster sometimes.
“Steven helps with women's distance and does sports massage, A.R.T. and other therapies for the athletes, in addition to being the strength coach for the whole program. He is a very busy guy and is so vital to our development and success.
"Tim Muller helps with distance and does about everything else. He's been a big help to all of us the past two years. Lexi is our new Operations Coordinator. She has been vital in setting up our travel and getting things done in the office.
“We also rely on Maggie, who has been our athletic trainer for four years now. She has been key in helping keep our kids healthy and getting kids back when they aren't. I appreciate our staff and the work and skill they bring to our program every day. As a team, we keep moving this program to where it has never been before."
Next up for the Purple and Gold will be the NCAA East Region Prelims in Lexington, Kentucky at the end of the month. They will find out later this week which Bisons qualified for the meet.