Men's, women's cross country teams take A-Sun crowns

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Bill Taylor is one happy coach.

Both of his cross country teams earned Atlantic Sun Conference Championships Saturday, Nov. 2.

The men's cross country team made history and also set some records on the way to the first Atlantic Sun Conference Cross Country Championship in school history. The women's cross country team earned it third consecutive Atlantic Sun Cross Country Championship.

Men win first championship

Men Cross CountryThe Bisons won easily Saturday morning on the Vaughn’s Gap course at sun-splashed Percy Warner Park. 

Heading into the championship race the Bisons were voted No. 1 in the conference coaches’ poll, a rating that Lipscomb coach Bill Taylor didn’t embrace.

“Publicly I stated that the men’s race was going to be close,” said Bill Taylor, director of cross country and track and field. “I honestly thought we were going to be pretty good. I thought we could win pretty easily.

“There were a lot of goofy things in the poll this year. Seven coaches voted for ETSU first and we had three in the last poll. It was just silly that we were ranked first. I would have rather not been ranked first going in if I could have helped it. But we ignored all of that stuff.”

The Bisons finished with 26 points. Northern Kentucky was a distant second with 82. It was the best winning score in the A-Sun Championships since 2006 and the second largest margin of victory in the conference championships. The Bisons are the first team in the A-Sun to finish first after finishing seventh the previous season.

“You never know how they are going to react, especially their first time chasing a conference title,” Taylor said. “But we weren’t surprised with what happened.

“Coach (Dan) Goetz and I gave them a plan. We felt like they were capable of doing it. It was a just a matter of will they do it. We were both convinced that we had the best team in the conference by a lot.”

Juan Gonzalez, who won A-Sun Freshman of the Year, finished second in the 8-K with a time of 25:05.70. Northern Kentucky’s J.J. Webber took first place with a time of 25:05.06. Gonzalez was leading when he slipped on a turn near the end of the course and it likely cost him the race.

Gonzalez’ claimed the highest ever individual finish by a Lipscomb runner in the conference championships. It also marks the second year in a row that a Lipscomb runner has been named Freshman of the Year. Jared Wingerter won in 2012.

“I am thrilled with how Juan ran,” Taylor said. “It was too bad that he slipped at the end. That doesn’t mean that he would have won if he hadn’t. But that is cross country. The first one to cross the line wins.

“I thought Juan ran an amazing race. It was a nice step forward for him. Win or not I think he is going to get a few wins in the future.”

Gonzalez has been the leader in every race for the Bisons this fall. Taylor is impressed by his freshman’s confidence.

“He is really smart,” Taylor said. “He is doing this as a freshman running an 8-K for the first time. He is a great guy and a great person.”

Lipscomb freshman Christian Freeman was third with a time of 25:12.65. Sophomore Daniel Gardner was fifth with a time of 25:25.62. John Kingstedt, another Lipscomb freshman, was seventh with a time of 25:30.08. 

Gonzalez, Freeman and Kingstedt were named to both the A-Sun All–Freshman Team and the All-Conference First Team for finishing in the top seven. It is the second year in a row that the Bisons placed three runners on the All-Freshman Team.

Gardner also earned Atlantic Sun First Team All-Conference honors.

“Our future looks pretty good,” Taylor said.

Tim Muller, a redshirt senior, was ninth for the Purple and Gold with a time of 25:42.61. Wingerter was 12th finishing in 25:51.26. Redshirt senior Geoff Musick’s time of 25:54.85 was good enough for 13th.

All three were named to the A-Sun All-Conference Second Team. Musick is the second Lipscomb cross country runner to win All-Conference honors twice following in the footsteps of Ryan Chastain.

“Tim already had an injury redshirt,” Taylor said. “I talked to Isaiah (Greer) and Geoff last year right before the season and told them we were going to host the conference championships next year and we are going to be a better team. I asked what they thought about redshirting. They bought into it and got a huge reward today.

“Tim has been injured a lot. Last March he sat down in my office and said he wasn’t going to run any more. There wasn’t even a debate. He said I am injured and I am tired. I talked to him and told him you don’t get that back if you decide not to do it. He came back and he was our No. 5 finisher and all-conference.”

Taylor was named A-Sun Men’s Coach of the Year becoming the first coach in league history be named both the Men's and Women's Coach of the Year in the same season.

“I share that with Dan,” Taylor said.

Rounding out the finishes for the Bisons were redshirt Greer (26:24.65) in 25th place and sophomore Fidel Leon in 34th (26:35.45).

Taylor thought that having the race on Lipscomb’s home course was a major advantage.

“It was huge,” Taylor said. “The guys should of, could of and would of won anywhere I think.

“We have the best crowd for cross country races in the conference.  For our runners to know that coming in gives them an extra incentive, extra motivation and extra energy to pull it off.”

The Bisons will compete Nov. 15 in the NCAA South Region in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Women three-peat as conference champions

Women Cross CountryTaylor was happy with the outcome, but he didn’t care much for the process.

Saturday morning at the Vaughn’s Gap course at Percy Warner Park the Lady Bisons earned their third consecutive Atlantic Sun Cross Country Championship. 

The Lady Bisons finished with 32 points easily besting ETSU in second place with 84.

It is the fifth best winning score in A-Sun history and the best since 1993. It also ties for the largest margin of victory in the A-Sun Championships.

But Taylor, the 2013 A-Sun Coach of the Year for women’s cross country and director of Lipscomb’s cross country and track and field teams, wanted more.

“Morale was not particularly high,” Taylor said. “The men ran almost a perfect race, if not a perfect race and I think in some ways that might have put more pressure on the women before they ran their race. There was a lot more tension than I would have ever expected.

“There were a lot of things that came together to have us not at our absolute best. We maybe let that get the best of us a little bit. Fortunately, we are so strong, so deep and so talented that on our worst day of the year we can still win the conference.”

Sally Larson led the Lady Bisons with a fourth place time of 17:53.28 on the 5-K course. Larson, the highest finishing freshman, was awarded A-Sun Freshman of the Year becoming the second Lady Bisons runner to receive the honor after junior Dani Walker won in 2010.

“Sally is an amazing runner,” Taylor said. “She has a great engine. She is a very positive person. She can run strong for a very long time.

“Sally didn’t look as good today as she has looked this season. She ran a little bit slower even though she led the way for us. This was a learning experience for everybody, especially for her.”

Senior Tessa Hoefle was fifth (17:58.47), sophomore Madeline Talbert was sixth (18:13.74) and Walker finished seventh (18:17.04).

Larson, Hoefle, Talbert and Walker were all named to the A-Sun All-Conference First Team. Hoefle and Walker are the first Lipscomb runners to earn All-Atlantic Sun honors three times. Talbert has twice been named to the All-Conference team.

Walker’s finish was impressive since she was running despite an ankle injury.

“We literally limped into the conference meet this year,” Taylor said. “Dani rolled her ankle in practice last Saturday and had not run until today. We got her taped up and put her on the line and hoped for the best.

“We made the decision on Thursday when final injuries were due. We were kind of locked in from there.”

Freshman Hannah Feiten was 10th for the Lady Bisons with a time of 18:23.18. Fellow rookie Barbara Lee Ball was 11th with a time of 18:30.14.

“Madi and Hannah had both been sick all week,” Taylor said. “It was a really, really rough week.”

Also in the top 20 for the Lady Bisons were junior Kaitlyn Llewellyn (18:52.94) in 17th place and freshman Kelsey Ibarra in 18th with a time of 18:54.00.

Junior Kendra Lobley rounded out the finishers for the Purple and Gold in 21st place with a time of 18:56.37.

Feiten and Ball were named Second Team All-Conference. Larson, Feiten, Ball and Ibarra were named to the A-Sun All-Freshman Team. The four selections tied the conference record for the most runners on the All-Freshman Team.

Placing six runners on the A-Sun All-Conference Team also ties a conference record.

The next challenge for the Lady Bisons will be the NCAA South Region Nov. 15 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“We have some serious work to do before the regional meet,” Taylor said. “We have to work on everything. We will have a meeting tonight and start talking about regionals and what went well today and what didn’t go well. 

“We tempoed this course as good as or better than we raced it today. It was a serious mental thing today. The good news is we can work through that. Mental things can be solved quickly. We have to get back on the right track quickly.”