That sets a high bar for Milligan College’s track & field team as the Buffs head to the Appalachian Athletic Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships this weekend.
The outdoor championships are set for Friday-Saturday at Montreat College’s Pulliam Stadium in Black Mountain, North Carolina. The Buffs are sending 28 individuals who rank in the AAC’s top five in their respective event, eight who hold the top mark in the AAC, and seven who have already qualified nationally. While there is plenty of talent on Milligan’s end, it will be a tough test once again as the AAC championships have continued to become more competitive.
“The AAC has absolutely exploded into one of the deepest conference meets in the NAIA,” head coach Chris Layne said. “For example, the men's 200-meter depth in the conference is more competitive than some of the mid-major (NCAA) DI conferences in our region, and on the women's side you could be coming off an All-American performance indoors and not even reach the podium this weekend. It's really exciting to see the opportunity this championship is now able to provide our student-athletes.”
Among Milligan’s top individuals, Brown is coming off a personal-best 13.41 time in the 110 hurdles into a negative wind at the CARIFTA Games in Georgetown, Cayman Islands. It was good for the fourth fastest time worldwide for U-20s, and it helped Brown solidify himself as the top hurdler in the NAIA. Brown ran 14.01 in the 110 hurdles at the Lenoir Rhyne Classic earlier this season, which is No. 1 in the NAIA by 0.17 seconds.
“Rasheem will only run the hurdles and the 4x1 relay this weekend, but he has a tremendous amount of momentum coming off a great run at the CARIFTA Games,” Layne said. “Since he's only a freshman, Coach B.T. Pham believes it's important to manage his reps with an emphasis on having him ready to run fast at the national champs.”
Brown highlights Layne’s men’s squad, which ranks No. 32 nationally. Sophomore Tim Thacker, who is No. 7 as a national qualifier in the 1,500, and sophomore Nathan Baker, No. 8 as a national qualifier in the 5,000 meters, also lead the Buffs.
Rounding out Layne’s national qualifiers on the men’s side is Cory Aulich, who qualified in the marathon with a top-50 time in the NAIA this season.
Liz Maller (hammer throw, shot put) and Gabrielle Mardis (3k steeplechase) are Milligan’s national qualifiers on the women’s side. Maller ranks No. 11 nationally in the hammer and No. 15 in the shot put while Mardis is No. 15 in the steeplechase. Amy Ferguson (5k), Avery DeWolf (5k) and Erica Stone (800 meters) also rank in the NAIA top 50.
Brown (110 hurdles), Thacker (1500), Baker (5k), Alex Mortimer (10k), Maller (hammer throw, shot put, discus throw) and Mardis (3k SC) all rank at the top of the AAC.
ROUNDING UP THE BUFFALOES
The Buffaloes of Milligan’s track & field team are not the only ones in the championship portion of the spring season.
Milligan’s tennis and golf teams recently completed their seasons at their AAC tournament. The tennis teams both lost to nationally ranked opposition in the opening round while the golf teams finished runner-up (women) and fifth (men).
Four golfers earned all-conference distinction. Senior Sarah Son (first team) highlighted the women’s side with an all-tournament selection at the NAIA AAC Direct Qualifier. Junior Nellie Berglund and freshman Meryl Castle followed with all-conference second-team selections. On the men’s side, senior Cody Carlson was second-team All-AAC.
On the diamond, Milligan’s baseball team finishes out the regular season with a three-game AAC set at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky, this weekend. The AAC tournament is set for next week, May 1-4, at Hunter Wright Stadium in Kingsport.
Milligan needs only a win or a Montreat College loss to clinch a spot in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament, although the Buffaloes could potentially move as high as No. 5 in the league.
In their last time out, the Buffs swept St. Andrews with a 13-9 win on Tuesday in the finale of the final home series of the season. It followed senior day on Monday, when seniors Camron Harper and Jeffrey Mefford turned it a pair of shutouts and won two pitchers’ duels, 1-0. Harper struck out eight in nine innings; Mefford struck out 14, including the last eight batters he faced, in seven innings. Both hurlers pitched the first shutouts of their Milligan careers.
Milligan’s softball team is the only other team currently in postseason action, and the Buffaloes are coming off a 2-1 win in an elimination game Thursday at Brickyard Park in Kingsport. Freshman Erin Forgety pitched another gem where she allowed second-seeded Union College only five hits in her 13th complete game of the season.
The Buffaloes are scheduled to play again Friday in another elimination game.