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Cross Country season begins with Belmont Opener
Bill Taylor
Bill Taylor

Friday, September 03, 2010

The Lipscomb Bisons and Lady Bisons start the 2010 Cross Country season Friday with the Belmont Opener at Vaughn’s Gap in Percy Warner Park. Both teams have received a great deal of interest during the preseason and coach Bill Taylor is expecting an exciting season.

The Lady Bisons enter the 2010 season with a lot of changes. Sixteen freshmen have joined the program. With the top nine women returning from last year, the Lady Bisons are young, talented and have the most depth in program history.

The returners for 2010 are led by Ashley Lehman (JR-Blacksburg, Va.), Amanda Twigg (SO-Cumberland, Md.), Shelby Marvel (SO-Ashland City, Tenn.), Catherine Beals (JR-Glasgow, Ky.), Louisa Van Batavia (JR-Burns, Ore.) and senior captains Jenny Randolph (SR-Knoxville, Tenn.) and Caitlin Anderson (SR-Franklin, Tenn.).

“Our returners are excited for the season and worked hard this summer,” Taylor said. “I know they were motivated by the desire to continue the steady progression we have been making each year. And with a large freshmen class coming in, they saw the opportunity we have as a team, and they wanted to be in the top group this year.”

A class of 16 freshmen is the largest in the history of the women’s program at Lipscomb. The freshman class is also diverse, with women representing eleven different states, coming from as far away as Hawaii, California, Wyoming and Washington state, and as close as Nashville.

“We needed to increase our talent and depth this year, and we have accomplished both with this class,” Taylor said. “I inherited a team of nine women when I arrived at Lipscomb three years ago. We brought in almost double that just with freshmen this year and now we have a women’s team of 28.

“Even better though, the women have amazing character and are super nice and supportive. By the end of the first day of our training camp you would have thought the whole team had been together and been great friends for years.”

In addition to talent Taylor seeks out athletes who also possess strong character and upbeat personalities, but it is always a concern as to how to make so many individuals work as a team.

“I was nervous about how a team of 27 or 28 would mesh,” Taylor said. “I’ve never coached a women’s team this big. It has been terrific though and our size is actually an advantage in terms of team environment. This is one of the nicest teams in the nation, and they want to be good. It’s going to be a very fun year.”

Early leaders from the freshman class are Dani Walker (FR-Wichita, Kan.), Tessa Hoefle (FR-Winnebago, Ill.), and Alex Newby (FR-Knoxville, Tenn.).

“In our time trial Dani, Tessa and Alex were up front,” Taylor said. “They looked amazing. All three can become top D-I runners. But anyone can be up there at any time and we have already seen many different women up with the front group in various practices. I think it is really an issue of maturity, confidence, belief and desire. We are going to have a lot of women, returners and freshmen, that ‘figure it out’ throughout this season.

“I wouldn’t dare predict who our top seven will be at the end of this season. The door is wide open for whoever wants it the most, and there will be some surprises before this season is done.”

While the Bison women face change in the form of addition, the Bison men face change in the form of subtraction. The men added four freshmen to the team, and lost four. Most notable among the losses is two-time XC All-Atlantic Sun runner Ryan Chastain, who also won three track conference titles and broke 13 Lipscomb school records.

“Our men’s team has a ton of potential this year, but they need to find their identity without Ryan,” Taylor said. “Ryan was a true number one runner. He was the guy you could count on to be up in the front in every race. “

Taylor has not found a replacement for Chastain at this stage of the preseason.

“We don’t need a replacement for Ryan to be a terrific team,” Taylor said. “Last year’s team had no less than five freshmen in the top seven in every race. So our success this year will be dependent on how quickly our young runners have improved and how much they are willing to race for each other and with each other. Without a true number one yet, you have to have a strong group that is right there not far from where Ryan would have been. We definitely have the ability to do that.

“This men’s team has the opportunity to be the best Lipscomb men’s team ever, and much better than last year’s team. To do that, they must be focused and driven. It’s only going to come through hard work and teamwork. As this season progresses we will see if enough of them are willing to pay the price to take that next step.”

Top returners for the men in 2010 are Isaiah Greer (SO-Johnson City, Tenn.), Mike Yang (SO-Oceanside, N.Y.), Tim Muller (SO-Denver, Colo.), Geoff Musick (SO-Nashville, Tenn.), Ashton Fisher (SO-Ellsworth, Mich.), Hunter Hethcoat (JR-Franklin, Tenn.) and team captains Benton Reed (JR-Scottsboro, Ala.) and Jonathan Williams (SR-Knoxville, Tenn.).

The Belmont Opener is the traditional first meet for the Bisons and Lady Bisons. The Vaughn’s Gap course in Percy Warner Park serves as a home course for three Nashville universities and is often used for high school and community meets as well.

“It’s a deceptively challenging course,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t look that tough when you first drive up and park, but there are significant hills in the parts you can’t see at first, and when you run on it you know it’s not easy. So it’s a good early season challenge for us to get see where we are to begin the year.

“In the end though, it’s just the first race and we have a lot of work ahead of us. It’s a starting point that we will build upon and learn from. It will be fun to get out there and race though. We want to get this season started!”

The women will race 4000m at 5:30 p.m. The men will follow with a 5000m race at 6 p.m.