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Cross country puts its best foot forward at NAIA Nationals

Tanner Cook • Updated Nov 22, 2017 at 5:04 PM

The Milligan College women’s cross country team and Appalachian Athletic Conference Freshman Male Runner of the Year Nathan Baker made big splashes at the NAIA National Championships over the weekend in Vancouver, Washington.

The women finished seventh overall and senior Sarah Kate Gartman finished 17th overall in a personal best time of 17:56. Senior JJ Robinson also had a great run, finishing 30th overall in 18:05. Both girls earned All-American status.

“I knew about halfway through the season that our women were turning the corner and could be a good team,” Milligan coach Chris Layne said. “I can’t say enough about the girls and how hard they worked this season. Our top three had personal bests and Amy Ferguson really stepped up for us at the three spot.”

The Buffs were only 17 points out of the top five in the team standings and had a spread from the No. 1 to No. 5 runners of only 1:24. The Buffs averaged 18:33 for 5,000 meters as a team.

Baker finished 34th in the men’s individual race. It was only four spots out of All-American status in his first fall as a college runner. He finished in 25:30, only seven seconds away from the top 30. Baker also moved into the top-10 all-time at Milligan for 8,000 meters.

“Nathan really trusts the process,” Layne said. “The late start was a blessing in disguise because we didn’t need to rush it. He got in a handful of races and he ended up beating the two guys that beat him at conference. He went out a bit quicker than he usually does, but he needed to at a national meet.”

This marked the first time since 2008 that Milligan finished inside the top 10 as a team with the highest finish coming in 2003 when the Milligan women finished third.

Men’s Basketball

After winning its home opener against Truett-McConnell on Nov. 14, the Buffs have dropped AAC road contests against Bluefield and Reinhardt and a home game against Union College.

Milligan led the game 35-30 at the half, but the Rams scored 17 straight points late in the second half to put the game away. Eleven of those points were free throws and the Buffs could never overcome their foul troubles in an 86-76 loss.

The Buffs lost 113-101 in overtime at Reinhardt. The Eagles made three straight three-pointers to start the overtime period that ultimately doomed Milligan.

Aaron Levarity and Desean Green each posted double-doubles. Levarity had 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Green had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Milligan returned home Tuesday night to face No. 2-ranked and defending national champion Union College. The Buffs were only two points down with four minutes left, but, once again, great free throw shooting down the stretch by Union gave the Bulldogs an 83-73 win.

The Buffs are off to a rough 1-7 start and are 1-3 in AAC play.  They play Washington Adventist University in the NAIA Showcase Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Kingsport’s MeadowView Convention Center.

Women’s Basketball

The women’s team opened up conference play last Tuesday with an 86-51 blowout win over Truett-McConnell, but have since dropped two contests on the road at Bluefield and Reinhardt.

The Buffs got back in the win column Tuesday at home win against Union.

The contest at Bluefield was only a two-point loss for the Buffs, 59-57, and Mackenzie Raizor had a chance to tie the game as time expired. The Buffs trailed most of the way, but got within striking distance with under a minute left.

The next contest at No. 19 Reinhardt was a lopsided 80-54 affair as no Milligan player scored in double figures.

The Buffs were able to beat Union 71-60 behind a stellar defensive effort as the Bulldogs went just 8 for 32 from the field in the first half. Milligan was able to salt the game away in the second half by continued good defense and settling for good shots.

The Buffs are currently 5-4 and 2-2 in the AAC.

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