In an era where college football games have been played at Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field, and outdoor hockey games have been played at football stadiums, Milligan College recently took its cross country team to a golf course for a first home meet.
Two weeks ago, the Buffs hosted the inaugural Buffalo Valley Stampede at Buffalo Valley Golf Course in Unicoi. The different sports venue worked out perfectly according to Milligan head coach Chris Layne.
“Historically, we’ve tried to host these events once a year,” Layne said. “We used the venue at Sycamore Shoals (State Park) for a while, but due to some restrictions, it wasn’t going to be possible for us to go out there anymore.
“Since the campus has been so supportive of us, it was important to be close enough where we could generate the same type of following we had in the past. I asked (golf) coach Tony Wallingford and (vice president of student development) Mark Fox about it. We met with (Johnson City director of golf) Jim Hughes and those guys, and it was a perfect place.”
There were six teams which participated in the event with the Milligan women rolling to an easy victory.
Junior Cassie St. John, a track specialist who is in her first season running cross country, was the individual champion. The former David Crockett High School standout finished with a time of 18:39 over the three-mile course.
Lauren Grindstaff finished third as teammates Meagan Wright and Natalia Rivas rounded out the top-five.
In addition, Mackenzie Patten and Amber Grello finished seventh and eighth.
With the object of cross country like golf to get a low score, the Lady Buffs scored 20 points. Tennessee Wesleyan was well behind in second with 46 points, followed by North Greenville (S.C.) with 63 points.
Layne said the team clearly had a home-field advantage at the appropriately named Buffalo Valley.
“Our student body came out and really embraced this thing,” Layne said. “One fan from another school said it was one of the most exciting small-college events they had ever been to. So, we will see if we can build from that.”
The Lady Buffs are now No. 18 in the NAIA national rankings. With Rivas, Patten and Wright all returners off last year’s team which finished 19th in the NAIA National Championshps, they are favorites to win an 11th straight Appalachian Athletic Conference title.
“We return five really strong women,” Layne said. “I’m a little concerned that we don’t have a lot of depth this year. There is a lot of experience in our group, but we’ve got to have some folks like Amber Grello, Jessie Reinhardt and Chelsey Carpenter step up and get established in the six, seven and eight positions. You just can’t bank on everything being perfect the entire season.”
Hannah Seagrave, a freshman sprinter from Surry, England, is another one whom Layne said could develop into an outstanding distance runner.
On the men’s side, Milligan finished second 29-58 behind Tennessee Wesleyan at their home meet. Freshman Taylor Tafelski was the Buffs’ top runner, running 5:18 over the six-kilometer course. He finished three seconds behind Wesleyan’s Roderick Bowman, a former Daniel Boone star.
Juniors Nathan Meeuwenberg and Christian Brewer were eighth and ninth, respectively, while a trio of freshmen — Ayden Farmer, Brandon Ellis and Josh Mosteller — wound up 18th, 19th and 21st.
“This is the most talented freshman class we’ve ever had,” Layne said. “They have to be talented because we don’t have a lot of depth. Nathan Meeuwenberg is an All-American candidate and he’s going to run up front, and Christian Brewer, a transfer from East Tennessee State, is now healthy. Our freshmen are blowing my mind right now. Taylor Tafelski can really challenge to be an All-American this year. He has really high-end potential.”
The Buffs have no more races scheduled for September, but the slate is full in October. They start with the Mountaineer Open at Appalachian State on Oct. 4 and have three more meets before the AAC meet in early November.
The men’s soccer team is now 1-5 after a double overtime loss to St. Andrews on Tuesday. Scoring has been a problem with the Buffs only netting six goals over their last six matches.
They hope to get back on track Saturday when they host AAC rival Point University.
The offensive struggles have also plagued the Milligan women, who lost 1-0 to King University on Wednesday.
Now 2-5-1, the Lady Buffs missed on several opportunities. It was the fourth straight loss for Milligan in a stretch which the Lady Buffs have scored just one goal.
They play Point at 4 p.m. with the men’s contest scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.
The Lady Buffs volleyball team looks to recover from a tough 3-2 loss to Virginia Intermont on Tuesday night.
Kylie Whaley and Samantha Bruinius each had 13 kills to lead Milligan, which lost the first set 30-28, and tied the fifth set 8-8 before falling 15-10. Now 5-10 on the season, the Lady Buffs play at St. Andrews (N.C.) University tonight.