“This is indicative of the excellence that exists throughout athletics at Milligan,” said Rich Aubrey, head women’s basketball coach. “We are excited about our position in both the conference Duard Walker standings and the national Learfield Directors’ Cup standings. Our student-athletes and coaches have made us nationally relevant.”
Aubrey’s program is one of the top point-getters for Milligan in the conference standings. With a runner-up finish in the regular season and semifinal finish in the AAC postseason tournament, the women’s basketball team earned 70 points, tied with the women’s volleyball team for the most by any team. Head Coach Doneva Bays’ volleyball team posted similar success, finishing third in the AAC regular season before earning runner-up in the conference tournament.
Aubrey’s and Bays’ programs both made appearances at their respective NAIA national championships.
While Aubrey’s team led the Buffs during the winter season and Bays’ team led them during the fall, several other teams helped Milligan earn the top spot in conference standings. The women’s soccer team earned runner-up in the conference tournament on the way to garnering 65 points. The men’s basketball team landed third in the regular season and a semifinal appearance in the tournament to take home 60 points. The men’s and women’s cross-country teams, men’s indoor track & field team and women’s swimming team all earned 40 points.
In fact, Milligan scored points toward the conference standings in 10 of 11 possible sports so far through the fall and winter seasons.
On the national scale, the men’s indoor track & field team brought in the most points during the winter season with a 16th-place finish at the NAIA national championship. Freshman Rasheem Brown’s national title and sophomore Tim Thacker’s national runner-up helped the team earn its highest national finish in Milligan track & field history. For the fall season, Milligan’s cross country teams combined to bring in 121 points, most among Milligan teams, after finishing 12th (women) and 17th (men).
The AAC’s Duard Walker All-Sports Trophy and Learfield IMG College Directors’ Cup are similar in many ways. Both recognize institutions with the most successful all-around sports programs for the year. In the conference, teams receive 50 points for first place in the regular season and another 50 points for first place in the postseason, followed by 40 points for runners-up, 30 points for third, and so on and so forth. In the national standings, points are awarded on a similar scale but vary depending on the sport and number of teams competing.
The conference trophy, which started in 2000, was named after longtime Milligan teacher, administrator, coach and athletics director Duard Walker. Walker was the NAIA Athletics Director of the Year in 2001 and was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2008.
Milligan won the first six Duard Walker All-Sports Trophies on the way to winning nine total. The last time Milligan won the trophy was in 2014, although the Milligan women won the women’s trophy in 2016, after the second year of existence for separate men’s and women’s all-sports trophies.
SPRING SPORTS LOOK TO CONTINUE TREND
The spring will determine the all-sports trophy winner, and several Milligan teams are working to make that happen. Both the men’s and women’s golf teams were runner-up at the AAC Fall Championship and have the AAC Spring Championship in their sights in the coming weeks. The women are six strokes off the lead and head to their championship next week in Waleska, Georgia. The men are 19 strokes off the lead and will head to their championship April 8-9 in Harrison, Tennessee. The outcome of the spring championships will also help determine the regular season winner.
Milligan’s outdoor track & field program is off to a great start this spring. After producing five All-Americans during indoor season, the Buffs look to continue their success through two events during outdoor season. Brown, making his outdoor collegiate debut, posted the top result for Milligan in the opening weekend with a win of the 200 meter dash at the Lenoir-Rhyne Invitational. Several other Buffs earned podium finishes, including Brianna Buck, who was runner-up in the high jump, Liz Maller, who was runner-up in the hammer throw and shot put, and Cory Aulich, who was runner-up in the 5k.