ABILENE – Liberty University Wednesday announced that Abilene Christian track and field head coach Lance Bingham will return to Lynchburg, Virginia at the conclusion of the 2020 season to replace Brant Tolsma, who is retiring as Liberty’s Director of Track and Field and Cross Country after 34 seasons.
This will be Bingham’s third tenure with the Flames. He was an assistant coach under Tolsma from 1995-2001 and his associate head coach from 2004-16. In between stints (2001-04), Bingham, a native of Meadow, Texas, was the head track and field coach at South Plains College.
“Lance is someone of impeccable character who has been the perfect fit for our student-athletes and our university’s Christ-center mission,” said ACU Athletics Director Allen Ward. “We’ll all miss working with him, but I’m confident we’ll find the right person to continue the program’s upward trend. He and his coaching staff have done an impressive job during his tenure and I look forward to seeing what the Wildcats accomplish this outdoor season.”
Bingham recently led the Wildcats to a pair of third-place showings at the Southland Conference Indoor Championships. The two squads combined for seven medals, raising the program’s all-conference citation count to 90 under Bingham’s watch.
And of those 90 honorees, 27 Wildcats are Southland Conference champions.
The latest additions to ACU’s list of gold medalists are shot putters Tyler Richardson and Annina Brandenburg, and the men’s 4×400-meter relay of Blaze Brownlow, Ryan Linton and Avery and Jared Williams, which won its fourth consecutive conference race, dating back to the 2018 outdoor meet.
The cross country program also made significant strides this past season with the men moving up from ninth to third in the conference standings, and the women going from eighth to fourth. Led by All-South Central Region honorees Briahna Gerlach, Kevin Kipkosgei and Denis Lagat, the men trimmed 124 points off their 2018 total, while the women produced an 86-point improvement.
“Firstly, I want to thank Dr. Phil Schubert, Allen Ward, the entire athletics administration and many alumni for the opportunity to serve these four years at ACU,” said Bingham. “This school and its track and field program always will be in good hands because they put God at the center of everything they do.”
“Looking back, I’m very proud of all our student-athletes accomplishments,” said Bingham. “The team and coaches together have done extraordinary things in a very short amount of time, but we’re not done yet. I am certainly looking forward to the outdoor championships here at our home track this May, and I know that our athletes will compete in such a way as to honor Christ.
“We discuss many times our total release goal which is to, ‘totally release all that we are; mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually to be like Christ in every situation.’ I know that they will continue to strive for this goal as we press on toward conference and the postseason. Most importantly, I know that many of these student athletes will be serving the Lord ten and twenty years from now and that is what it is all about.”
Bingham arrived in Abilene in May 2016 and set to work on solidifying a culture that honored God while maintaining the expected level of excellence associated with Wildcat Track and Field.
He won his first Southland title with the 2017 women’s cross country team, which scored 44 points on its home course. Then, during the 2018 track and field season, he watched his men’s team go from ninth indoors (39 points) to second outdoors with 117 points. The men repeated as the outdoor conference runner-up in 2019, scoring 104 points in Natchitoches, Louisiana. The women also scored 104 points last spring, led by Athlete of the Year Kayla Melgar, who accumulated 26 points through three events.
Since 2018, Bingham has taken 25 student-athletes to compete at NCAA West Prelims. Fourteen Wildcats qualified for this event in the program’s first year of eligibility, and 11 went to Sacramento last spring.
While competing in the Golden State Capital, Brandenburg and Melgar became the first Wildcats to represent the program at a NCAA DI-level championship in 30 years. Brandenburg placed sixth in the discus behind a school-record breaking launch of 56.86 meters (186 feet – 02 inches) on her final attempt. The following day Melgar joined her on the short list of elites by placing eighth in the shot put behind a toss of 16.80m (55-01.50).
Melgar attained Third Team All-America status (22nd) and Brandenburg earned Second Team All-America honors (15th) at the national meet hosted by the University of Texas.
Academics also are a top priority for Bingham’s teams, as all four teams (men’s and women’s cross country and track field) have maintained GPAs over 3.00 for the last seven semesters. Additionally, five different student-athletes have been named Southland Conference Student-Athlete of the Year; 40 have been voted Academic All-Conference, and 223 names have been placed on the Southland Conference’s Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
A national search for Bingham’s replacement is underway.