Seven teams were represented at NAIA national championships this past year, with six of those seven teams finishing in the top 20. Furthermore, the Buffs earned two Appalachian Athletic Conference titles and five AAC runners-up.
Individually, Milligan produced 14 NAIA All-Americans, six AAC athletes of the year, two national runners-up and one national champion.
FALL SEASON PUTS BUFFS ON RIGHT TRACK
The fall season was loaded with team and individual success as the Buffs started 2019-2020 on the right foot.
The cross country teams and volleyball team represented Milligan at fall national championships, the former taking 14th on the men’s side and eighth on the women’s side while the latter qualified for the national championship for the second year in a row and hosted its opening-round match.
Nathan Baker, the AAC cross country runner of the year, led Milligan as an All-American on the men’s side after leading the team to the AAC title. Avery DeWolf and Bekah Owen led Milligan to a top-10 finish at the national championships on the women’s side.
Kellee Geren (women’s volleyball) and Roberto Fernandez Garrido (men’s soccer) matched Baker’s All-America and AAC athlete of the year status. Geren earned AAC setter of the year in addition to AAC player of the year while Garrido was named AAC player of the year. Both were NAIA All-America honorable mentions.
WINTER TEAMS CONTINUE MOMENTUM FROM FALL SUCCESS
Milligan’s winter teams picked up where the fall teams left off, sending four teams to national championships and finishing top 20 in all four.
The track & field program boasted the most success as it finished ninth on the men’s side and 20th in women’s competition.
Rasheem Brown highlighted the national championship event with a national title in the 60-meter hurdles, defending the crown from his freshman season and breaking the NAIA national championship and Milligan records in the process.
The Buffs also posted two individual national runners-up, as Tim Thacker (mile) and Gabrielle Mardis (3k) narrowly missed titles of their own. Brown, Thacker and Mardis were the first three of 10 track & field All-Americans. Baker (3k), Katlyn Haas (3k), Bekah Owen (5k) and Sam Wehner, Ronan Philippot, Alex Windham and Thacker (distance medley relay) also earned the feat.
Thacker’s two All-American efforts came after winning AAC runner of the year for indoor track & field. The efforts of Mardis, Haas, Owen and numerous others came after winning the AAC title.
Milligan’s swimming program also highlighted the winter season as both teams went to the national championships and finished inside the top 20. Maggie Halloran, the AAC female co-swimmer of the year, picked up her sixth All-American swim with a sixth-place national finish in the 200 backstroke, helping Milligan take 19th on the women’s side. The men took one spot higher at 18th.
SPRING SEASONS ALSO OFF TO GREAT START
Although unable to finish due to the cancelation of spring seasons, Milligan was off to another great start.
The baseball team, under the management of first-year head coach Skyler Barnett, was already five wins shy of matching last year’s win total. The Buffs were 14-8 through the first 22 games and posted a 5-1 AAC record, which put them at the top of the conference. Additionally, head softball coach Wes Holly recently won his 900th career game.
Also competing in the spring were the tennis and golf seasons. Both tennis teams were 11 matches into the season and most recently completed a successful trip to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, during their annual spring-break trip.
The golf teams were one event into the spring, and the women highlighted it with a fifth-place finish as a national top-25 team.
Finally, the Buffs also were in a good place looking forward to outdoor track & field season, coming off a successful trip to South Dakota for the indoor national championships.