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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)
“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.”
“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 )
“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)
“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)
“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)
“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.”
“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)
“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.”
“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.”
Lana Sydenstricker (Warren High School – Bartlett, Ohio. High School Coach: Debbie Proctor. Parents: Stephanie and Mike Sydenstricker)
” 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)
“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!”