DEBARY, Fla. - For the second-straight year, Lipscomb left the Atlantic Sun Men's Cross Country Championship with the team title as the Bisons finished ahead of Northern Kentucky by 10 points.
NKU's JJ Webber became the seventh student-athlete to win consecutive individual title with his time of 24.26.43. Webber's time ranks as the fifth-fastest in A-Sun Championship history, while his 36 second victory sits as the sixth-largest margin of victory.
The Bisons placed four runners on the all-conference team as Juan Gonzalez, Daniel Gardner and Christian Freeman finished in third, fourth and fifth, while Jared Wingerter earned ninth place. Lipscomb's margin of victory of 10 points over NKU ties for the eighth-smallest in A-Sun history.
Following Webber on NKU's side was Brady Holmer, Zac Holtkamp, Caleb Augustus and Michael Mangus as the quartet earned second team all-conference honors in 10th, 11th, 12th and 14th place.
North Florida claimed third place with 66 points ahead of FGCU (108), USC Upstate (125), Kennesaw State (136), Stetson (209) and Jacksonville (230). The third-place performance for UNF ties the program's best finish, while FGCU has now earned fourth place at the last three A-Sun Championships.
Kennesaw State's Daniel Garcia finished behind Webber for runner-up honors, while also earning the A-Sun Freshman of the Year accolades.
Atlantic Sun First Team All-Conference
JJ Webber, North Kentucky: 24:26.43 - A-Sun Runner of the Year
Daniel Garcia, Kennesaw State: 25:03.00
Juan Gonzalez, Lipscomb: 25:05.53
Daniel Gardner, Lipscomb: 25:15.80
Christian Freeman, Lipscomb: 25:15.85
Michael Damato, North Florida: 25:21.17
Tyler Bennett, North Florida: 25:27.91
Atlantic Sun Second Team All-Conference
Griffin Eubanks, USC Upstate: 25:34.13
Jared Wingerter, Lipscomb: 25:38.74
Brady Holmer, Northern Kentucky: 25:40.72
Zac Holtkamp, Northern Kentucky: 25:42.52
Caleb Augustus, Northern Kentucky: 25:48.00
Troy Clark, FGCU: 25:49.62
Michael Mangus, Northern Kentucky: 25:52.31
Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team
Daniel Garcia, Kennesaw State - A-Sun Freshman of the Year
Tyler Bennett, North Florida
Troy Clark, FGCU
Michael Mangus, Northern Kentucky
Dylan Titon, Kennesaw State
Exceeding Expectations: J.J. Webber and Northern Kentucky
(From A-Sun Insider)
Northern Kentucky has only been a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference since 2012, but has had multiple student-athletes push for top A-Sun honors. J.J. Webber of the Norse's Men's Cross Country team is a prime example of NKU's student-athletes using drive and determination to reach the top of the A-Sun record books.
"Compared to last year, I just feel more experienced. The training has been harder and the benefits are showing by running faster and longer," mentioned Webber of his cross country season.
The Liberty Township, Ohio native was not always the top runner for Northern Kentucky. Before coming into the program, Webber did not stand out amongst his teammates. Many of them outran Webber on the course.
"Many of J.J.'s NKU teammates came from the same areas, Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Southeast Indiana, and were beating him or keeping up with him in high school," said head coach Steve Kruse. "J.J. was good in high school, but once he changed his training at the college level, it has been miraculous."
Webber and his classmates stuck with Northern Kentucky through the transition from D-II to D-I and Kruse saw a transformation in Webber as the NKU Cross Country program made the divisional jump in the NCAA.
"It has been fun to coach. To see J.J. go from an All-Region runner at the Division II level to where he is today, it is a great transition," stated Kruse. "I take my hats off to not only J.J., but the rest of the upperclassmen who stuck with the program. It has been a true joy to watch this team grow."
As a team, Northern Kentucky finished second out of the eight teams in the 2014 A-Sun Championship, exceeding everyone's expectations.
"The team chemistry on this year's squad is amazing," said Kruse. "I am truly proud of how far each runner has come."
Webber ended his A-Sun Cross Country career as the seventh student-athlete in A-Sun history to win back-to-back individual championships. The last runner to complete the feat was USC Upstate's Gilbert Kemboi who won three years in a row between 2010 and 2012.
"It went as planned, but the team performed so well. It is a great feeling," Webber said after the race. "I wanted to keep pace in the first mile and then pull away after that."
Webber almost set a personal record at the A-Sun Cross Country Championship, on a course many coaches deemed to be too difficult to set any records. The NKU senior went out in winning fashion.