But Essler might have outdone herself by landing Milligan’s latest recruit.
After a protracted recruitment, Milligan beat out several NCAA Division I and Division II schools to land South Carolina product Maggie Halloran. Essler said the senior from Lexington High School in South Carolina is already swimming fast enough times in the mile to contend for an NAIA national championship.
“Right now, if she were in college in the NAIA, she would be second in the nation,” Essler said. “She’s not far off first place. In reality, we’re looking at someone who could potentially be a national champion here.
“She does a mile swim in 17.26. Our school’s record right now is an 18:48, so this girl would break it by about a minute and a half.”
After weighing her offers, Halloran wanted to go to a smaller Christian school, so her final choice came down between Milligan and Carson-Newman. In the end, Essler said Halloran enjoyed the team atmosphere at Milligan and bonded with the team during her visit.
The addition of Halloran and two male swimmers — Tyler Bourgeois and John Hutcheson — will give the Buffs enough depth next season to compete for meet wins and increase their presence at the NAIA National Meet.
“We’re getting a lot of first places, but because the depth is not there, the total points don’t add up,” Essler said. “Just with the numbers I’m going to get, we’re going to be moving up. As far as conference goes, we’re going to have some possible conference champions next year.”
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The track & field program will be splitting up this weekend as the Buffs hit the homestretch of the indoor season.
Several of Milligan’s top runners will head to North Carolina for the Camel City Elite meet in Winston-Salem. Hannah Segrave and Taylor Tafelsky will headline the Milligan contingent in North Carolina. The group will also include Katlyn Haas, Erica Stone, JJ Robinson, Sarah Kate Gartman and Caelyn Thompson.
The Buffs will also have a presence at the Buccaneer Invitational, which will be held at ETSU. Liz Maller, Mark Stair and Brandon Ellis are the top athletes slated to compete inside the MiniDome this weekend. Former Happy Valley standout Brianna Buck will also be competing in the high jump at ETSU.
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The men’s basketball team suffered a heartbreaking 83-82 Appalachian Athletic Conference loss on the road at Bluefield College on Wednesday night.
After trailing by three points late in regulation, the Buffs rallied to take an 82-81 lead with 14 seconds left in the game. But Bluefield was able to hit a shot ahead of the final buzzer to escape with a win.
Milligan’s Jacob Cawood finished with 20 points and six rebounds. Tyler Nichols (17), Alex Biggerstaff (14) and Bo Pless (12) also scored in double figures for the Buffs, who will play Union College at home on Saturday at 4 p.m.