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Talented pack of runners join women's cross country for 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Two Footlocker National Finalists and seven women with 3200m PRs between 10:20 and 11:00 highlight the strongest women’s distance recruiting class in Lipscomb history. 

“We had a very good year of recruiting,” said Bill Taylor, Director of Cross Country and Track & Field for Lipscomb.  “This is by far the strongest and deepest recruiting class in school history, and I always say this, but it’s true…they are absolutely incredible people.”

The 2013 women’s distance class is comprised of nine freshmen and one transfer from Wake Forest.

“We have 10 women joining the program that fit perfectly with our team family environment and high character philosophy,” Taylor said. “They will all contribute to every aspect of our success, from athletics, to academics, to missions and service.  They all add to our very unique team culture…the best team culture in the entire nation.”

The state of Washington is the most represented with three women, followed by Tennessee with two and one each from California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina.

“This class continues our tradition of drawing from across the country,” Taylor said. “We usually have around 30 different states represented on our track rosters each year.  Our reputation of excellence is growing rapidly nationwide.”

Lipscomb is also very unique as one of the few truly Christian universities in the country at the NCAA I level.

“I know that is a draw initially for so many of our recruits,” Taylor said. “Then they visit and see how different we are, how friendly Lipscomb is, and how incredible Nashville is.  And they see that our athletes improve more than any other program in the nation, and that they get the same competition opportunities as any other top program in the nation.”

Taylor finds the connections to the state of Washington to be a little humorous. 

“People often think that we recruit harder out of Washington state because I am from Washington,” Taylor said. “It’s not true, and to my knowledge, that connection has nothing to do with our success year- after- year in drawing great kids from Washington.”

 Washington is known as a hotbed for high school distance running.

“And it’s a tough part of the country to be a Christian,” Taylor said. “Lipscomb stands out as a very unique option for those kids.

“Nashville is a cool city…kind of Seattle in the South.  And the Southern culture is very attractive to kids from the west, and across the country.”

Taylor says it’s really hard to rank this year’s class as it is so packed with talent.  In alphabetical order, here are the 2013 women’s distance recruits:

Barbara Lee Ball (Lipscomb Academy – Nashville, Tenn.  High School Coaches:  Albert Thweatt, Todd Cunningham.  Parents:  Cindy and Mason Ball)
(2:16 800m, 5:00 full mile…4:58 1600m equiv., 11:00 3200m, 18:04 5000m)
-Three-time Tennessee A/AA State Cross Country Champion (2010, 2011, 2012)
-Two -time Tennessee A/AA State Champion in the 800m, 1600m and 3200m (2012 and 2013)
-All-Midstate Runner of the Year (2009, 2012)
-Tennessee Gatorade XC Runner of the Year (2012)
-Salutatorian of her graduating class


Reason for choosing Lipscomb:  “Lipscomb is a small school with a very strong women’s cross country and track program.  I want to help make it to nationals in cross country.

“I loved the team because they made me feel like family when I came to visit.  I also like the Christian atmosphere that ties the team together.”


Coach Taylor on Barbara:  “Barbara is a perfect fit for our program.  She will contribute to every aspect of our culture and success, on and off the course and track.

“As a competitor Barbara is as tough as they come.  She is a huge competitor and I can’t wait to see her adapt to the NCAA I level of training and competition.  Another thing about Barbara is that she makes others better.  She will push our other girls to rise to another level.  She is going to have a terrific career here.”

Katie Bianchini (Glacier Peak High School – Snohomish, Wash.  High School Coach: Dan Parker.  Parents:  Traci and David Bianchini )
(2:19 800m, 4:39 1500m, 4:55 1600m, 10:31 3200m, 17:36 5000m)
-Team State 3A Cross Country Championship (2010, 2012)
-Footlocker XC National Championship Finalist (2012)
-Two-time state championship runner-up at 3200m (2012, 2013)
-Member of Washington state record breaking 4x800m Relay team


Reason for choosing Lipscomb:  “I felt an immediate connection with the girls on the team from the moment I stepped off the plane on my visit, and I felt comfortable and confident with the coaches!  I love the strong Christian environment of the campus and the team. “
Coach Taylor on Katie:  “Katie happened to be on the same team as the top distance runner in the state of Washington.  Her coach told me that she is the best No. 2 runner in the nation.

“Katie is a wonderful person.  She fits our culture.  Athletically, she has experienced some of the biggest meets in the nation at the high school level, which will help her adapt quickly to NCAA I competition. 

“She is a team player and has experienced team success…and understands how important her efforts are for team success.  She has tons of potential.  I love her attitude and am excited to see her contribute to our program in every way.”

Hannah Feiten (Hardin Valley Academy – Knoxville, Tenn.  High School Coach:  Bryan Brown.  Parents:  Sabrina and Tom Feiten)
(2:21 800m, 5:07 1600m, 10:57 3200m, 18:02 5000m)
-All-District and All Region in XC and Track 12 times
-All-State in XC and Track
-New Balance Emerging Elite 2-mile Champion
-Member of Track & Field state Championship team (2012)
-Member of state record setting Distance Medley Relay
-National AP Scholar of Honor


Reasons for choosing Lipscomb:  “On my visit, I loved the team atmosphere and the campus.  I love the Christian environment, the tight knit community and the accomplished team.  I also love the city of Nashville, and I’m excited for the team mission trips. “


Coach Taylor on Hannah:  “Hannah is going to have a great career.  She was setback a bit by injuries her senior track season, so we are going to be careful with her at first, which means we are looking at her long term development.

“I am certain Hannah can be a national’s finals qualifier in her career here.  I can’t wait to see her grow in our program.  She also is an incredible character fit with our culture.  She will contribute to every aspect of our programs success.”

Brooke Gordon (T.C. Roberson High School – Arden, N.C.  High School Coaches:  Dave Culp and Andy Morgan.  Parents:  Matthew and Theresa Gordon)
(2:20 800m, 5:00 1600m, 10:49 3200m, 17:51 5000m)
-All-State 4A Cross Country all four years
-All-State 4A Track & Field in the 1600m and 3200m
-Member of state runner-up teams in xc and track
-National Honor Society


Reasons for Choosing Lipscomb:  “The inspiring Christian atmosphere coupled with an amazing coaching staff and friendly team immediately helped me see Lipscomb is where I belonged.  I’m excited to be in an inspiring Christian environment that allows me to grow and develop into a better runner and person with the help of supportive and loving teammates and coaches.”


Coach Taylor on Brooke: “Brooke is a super positive and caring person and a fighter as a competitor.  I’ve enjoyed her enthusiasm for running and for being a part of our program.

“I’ve been able to see her compete and she will throw everything she has at a race.  She’s a smart racer too.  I am really looking forward to working with Brooke and to seeing her contribution to our team’s success and to our amazing team environment.”

Kelsey Ibarra (Central York High School – York, Pa.  High School Coaches:  Sean Potts, Randy Mumford, Kelly Goodyear, Lara Bushey.  Parents: Cindy and Chris Ibarra)
(5:13 1600m, 11:06 3200m, 18:36 5000m)
-School record holder for 3200m
-Three-time Pennsylvania state xc championships qualifier
-Three-time YAIAA Runner of the Year
-Two-time YAIAA XC Champion
-Four-year distinguished Honor Roll


Reason for Choosing Lipscomb:  “Lipscomb offers such a positive atmosphere that allows everyone there to grow in all aspects of their life, whether it be in their faith, academics, or athletics.  From the start of my official visit, I had already felt like the cross country and track teams welcomed me with open arms, making me feel like I fit right in.  I loved the positive atmosphere that was everywhere on campus.”


Coach Taylor on Kelsey:  “Kelsey is a terrific fit and is going to really surprise people.  She has been setback the past two years with some injury issues.  I really think that she is going to improve dramatically here.

“She comes from the same high school region as Maggie Lawrence, one of our current top-5 runners.  When Maggie was in high school Kelsey ran right with her.  I just think it’s a matter of time and patience before Kelsey rises up.  As a person, she is yet another perfect fit and will be a key contributor to all aspects of our programs success.”

Meredith Kilburn (Fort Mill High School/Wake Forest University – Fort Mill, S.C.  High School Coach:  Marc Pyrc.  Parents:  Gary and Karen Kilburn)
(5:06 1600m, 10:07 3000m, 10:58 3200m, 17:48 5000m)
-2010 XC Team State Champions
-2011 Track Team State Champions
-School record holder for the 5000m, 3200m, and 3000m
-2011 South Carolina Gatorade Runner of the Year
-South Carolina state champion in the 1600m (2010) and 3200m (2012)
-Salutatorian of high school class
-Varsity Cross Country runner for Wake Forest (top 7) as a freshman


Reason for choosing Lipscomb: “Great team environment, coach and academics.  Plus living and running in Nashville.  I am excited to be a part of and train with an awesome team!”


Coach Taylor on Meredith:  “I am excited for Meredith to join our team culture.  I keep saying it is a very unique and special culture, and I know Meredith is going to love it here.

“Athletically, as a major D-I transfer; Meredith brings experience running at conference and regional championships.  She has already accomplished a lot in her career.  I know we are going to help her go to a whole new level.  She is a great fit for Lipscomb, and we were what she was looking for, which sets up the opportunity for success in every way.”

Sally Larson (Cedar Park Christian School – Fall City, Wash.  High School Coach:  Garron Smith.  Parents:  Bill and Sharleen Larson)
(2:16 800m, 4:37 1500m, 4:58 1600m, 10:32 3200m, 18:09 5000m)
-2013 State Champion in the 1600m, 3200m, and 4x400m relay!  Runner-up at 800m
-All-State in XC all four years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)
-School record holder at 5000m and 3200m (broke her sister Jane’s 3200m school record)
-National Honor Society
-Homecoming Queen 2013


Reason for choosing Lipscomb: “I came out on an official visit and loved the team, the coach, the school, the philosophies, etc. and felt like God had placed Lipscomb right in front of me and was calling me to attend the school.  So I decided on the plane ride home and called the coach and committed!

“I’m excited to push myself to a higher level academically, athletically and spiritually.  And the weather in Nashville is a tad bit sunnier than back home in Seattle.”


Coach Taylor on Sally:  “Sally is a 100 percent fit for Lipscomb and our program.  She is going to contribute to every aspect of our culture and success.  I really think she is going to surprise people athletically too at the national level.

“She comes from a very small high school, so maybe isn’t as known as some other runners, but she is driven and has talent.  It’s going to be very fun watching her develop in every way as she helps our program rise to the top of the nation.”

Taylor Romine (El Toro High School – Lake Forest, Calif.  Parents:  Patricia and Byron Romine)
(5:18 1600m, 11:05 3200m, 18:09 5000m)
-All-County honors
-All-League honors
-Team Sea View League Champions
-El Toro Distance Runner of the Year
-Honor Roll


Reason for choosing Lipscomb:  “I know that the coaches want all of their athletes to do well, in and out of training and God is a huge part of it all.”


Coach Taylor on Taylor:  “Taylor has a terrific personality and has a ton of potential as an athlete.  She is funny and will add to the positive atmosphere and fun we have.  She’s another great fit for our culture.  I am really excited to see how far we can take her as an athlete. “

Lana Sydenstricker (Warren High School – Bartlett, Ohio.  High School Coach:  Debbie Proctor.  Parents:  Stephanie and Mike Sydenstricker)
(6:26 1600m, 13:35 3200m, 22:09 5000m)
-All-Academic Award for all four years of XC and Track
-Loren Weinstock Sportsmanship award for XC 2012
-Top 10 Academic Award for being in the top ten of class all four years.


Reason for choosing Lipscomb:  “I am so excited to be a part of a team where there is a Christian environment and everyone does their best.”


Coach Taylor on Lana: “Lana is a terrific person.  She is super positive and really excited to be a part of Lipscomb and our team.  Someone reading the press release probably looks at her times and wonders a little.  Here is the thing.

” Lana fits our team.  She brings all kinds of talents and strengths that will make our team better.  Our criteria for being a part of our program are character, academics, a positive attitude and a desire to give your best.  Athletically, though she isn’t where the other girls are, who knows?  Our average PR rates are over 2-minutes for 5-Ks.  Lana has run extremely little mileage in high school.  Over time, as we build up her mileage and give her great workouts and a great environment, she has the opportunity to run big PR’s and who knows what else. “

Kendra Weitz (The Oaks Classical Christian Academy and Shadle Park High School – Spokane, Wash.  High School Coach:  Bob Isitt.  Parents: Linda and Lynn Weitz)
(2:22 800m, 4:51 1600m, 10:20 3200m, 17:38 5000m)
-Footlocker XC Nationals Finalist (2010)
-Fifth place at Washington State 3A State XC Championships 
-Eighth place at Nike BorderClash All-Star race (2010)
-School record holder 1600m and 3200m
-Third place 3A Track state championships at 3200m and 1600m


Reason for choosing Lipscomb:  “After visiting in January I loved the team atmosphere!  It will be fun to have such a positive, godly group of people to be running with.”


Coach Taylor on Kendra:  “Kendra is such a sweet kid and fits so perfectly with our team culture and the environment of Lipscomb.  Athletically she has been one of the best distance runners in the entire nation; however she has struggled with a variety of health issues the past two years that have set her back dramatically.

“I think most people who have been at the top level in the nation, running 10:20 for 3200m and qualifying for Footlocker Nationals, would give up if faced with what Kendra has been faced with.  Yet, Kendra keeps a positive attitude, keeps fighting, keeps encouraging others, and trusts that things will turn out the way God wants them to.

“My assessment is that Kendra has all the ability that she has ever had, and has the potential to be an elite NCAA I college runner.  But it is going to take time and patience for her and for me.  I am excited to see how her story unfolds.  I do believe God is going to use her in a big way.  I don’t know if that means she will be a national champion, or if that means something else.  I don’t really care.

“Although I hope she will get back and beyond her best athletically, and I believe we will get her there, I am going to play the role that God has for me in her development and help her become a better person in every way.  Athletic success will be a big bonus.”

The Lady Bisons return the top-eight women from last year and 13 of the top 14.  With the addition of the top recruiting class in Lipscomb history the goals and expectations are going to be pretty big for the team.

The Lady Bisons have won the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship in cross country twice in a row. Taylor is hopeful of making it three in a row this fall.

“Our real goals are to get to the NCAA I National Cross Country Championships this year, and every year going forward, and to eventually win the National Championship,” Taylor said. “Some people think that is a crazy goal.  Yet, look what has happened over the past six years! “

Taylor moved to the NCAA Division I level as a coach because he said he could see that many NCAA I programs treated their athletes like a commodity.

“I saw that many programs only cared about their athletes in terms of how fast they could run for them,” Taylor said. “I also saw that many programs are not even coached well.  When you get great athletes, you often look like a better coach than you are.  Having fast runners is not always the best way to evaluate the success of a program.”

During his time at Northwest in Washington State he developed the template for success.

“We were beating most of those programs at a tiny NAIA college with no resources,” Taylor said. “How?  By building an unprecedented culture that focuses on taking care of the student-athlete and helping them grow and succeed in every aspect of their lives.

“By setting the highest athletic goals…goals people would say were crazy, and pursuing them fully, while at the same time keeping running in its proper perspective. And most of all, by recruiting on character and fit, and working to create the best team environment in the nation.”

Taylor has moved the bar up for his team each year.

 “Each season we do things that have never been done at Lipscomb,” Taylor said. “And you can see that top athletes across the country are starting to see that we are different… that they can ‘have their cake and eat it to’ so to speak.

“That means they can get the best coaching in the nation, get the best opportunities for competitions and success, and yet do it in the most unique, fun and supportive environment in the nation, without the distraction of partying, with a team that loves them.  And they can grow in every aspect of their lives. This recruiting class is an incredible addition to our team culture and will play a gigantic part in our programs success athletically, academically, socially and spiritually!”