That’s not to say that coach Bill Taylor isn’t expecting competitive efforts from his teams. But he has several new runners, especially on the men’s team. This first meet of the season will be a learning experience in many ways.
“I don’t know what to expect,” said Taylor. “I have kind of kept forgetting that we have a first meet because we are just getting rolling.
“I think our guys are going to work hard and try hard and that is all I can expect. We want to get a starting point and build from there. We will take what we see and say, `these things were great so we need to keep doing them and these things are what we need to keep working. It is really going to be a snapshot of where we are. We will be able to get a guidebook from that, so to speak, to where we want to be.”
Adding to the uncertainty is that the Bisons will be without Ryan Chastain, their top runner, who is sitting this meet out. The Lady Bisons will be missing Carolyn Latham, last year’s team leader, who has graduated. Also out is sophomore Ashley Lehman.
“I would prefer to have five or six leaders on the women’s team who are interchangeable,” said Taylor. “When we won a national championship at Northwest we had five different girls who were our number one runners in six meets.
“If you are fast enough as a team that is a good situation because no one has the burden on them because everybody is stepping up. That is what we are working for.”
Junior Caitlin Anderson, a second team All-Atlantic Sun performer last season, is expected to be the leader this season. Also in the top five will be junior Jenny Randolph, freshmen Amanda Twigg and Shelby Marvel and sophomore Louisa Van Batavia are expected to round out the top five.
“Caitlin has improved a ton,” said Taylor. “She has knocked three minutes off of her high school personal best in the 5-K.
" Twigg and Marvel had great time trials and are showing a lot of competitive spirit. Louisa came back a notch better than last season and she improved all year.”
On the men’s side Taylor is attempting to evaluate 21 runners at this point of the season.
“Without Ryan, I wouldn’t have a clue through No. 20,” said Taylor. “Our runners have closed the gap on Ryan. We have some meets on the road and I have to be able to pick eight guys.”
The meet will be held at the Vaughn’s Creek Course at Percy Warner Park. Three Southeastern Conference schools, Alabama, Tennessee and Vanderbilt; will be joined by Middle Tennessee State, Alabama-Birmingham and Western Kentucky.
“I want to see our girls and guys fighting for each other,” said Taylor. “We would love to see fast times, but I am not real concerned about that. I’m looking for people to show some competitiveness and people to put more out there for their teams.”
“We will take care of the things we can take care of. We are a little later in our quality work this year than we have been the last two years. We are a little behind right now, but we will catch up in a few weeks.”
The women, who will run a 4-K race, will start at 5:30. The men, competing on a 5-K course, will start at 6.