As the winter seasons come to a close, two Milligan College teams are set to compete in NAIA national championships this week.
Led by a pair of national champions and 10 Buffs seeded in the top 13, Milligan’s track & field team has set its sight on the indoor national championships in Brookings, South Dakota. Milligan’s swimming team competes at the swimming national championships in Knoxville
TRACK & FIELD
Milligan’s roster includes eight male qualifiers and six female qualifiers. Among them, two-time national champion Rasheem Brown, a sophomore, headlines the No. 14 men’s squad as the No. 1 seed and reigning national champion in the 60-meter hurdles. Junior Tim Thacker, last year’s national runner-up in the mile, comes in as the No. 2 seed with the No. 2-ranked mile time this season.
Senior Katlyn Haas, the No. 4 seed in the 3,000 meters, and senior Erica Stone and sophomore Gabrielle Mardis, 2019 indoor All-Americans, top the women’s roster.
Brown and Thacker, along with 2018 indoor 3k national champion Nathan Baker, provide the Buffs with plenty of experience on the men’s side, and coach Chris Layne says they have plenty of momentum, too. “The group as a whole has a lot of momentum. I think (the Appalachian Athletic Conference Championships) gave them a lot of confidence so they know they’re fit,” Layne said. “We just have to manage the environment the right way by staying focused on competing and nothing else.”
It is a similar story for the women as Layne says experience should play a key role in how the Buffs perform on the national stage. Stone (1,000) and Mardis (3,000) are coming off finishes of fifth and sixth nationally at last year’s indoor championships, helping them secure All-American in their events. The two are seeded No. 11 and No. 13 this season in the same events, and the Buffs also feature Bekah Owen and Avery DeWolf, Milligan’s leaders at the NAIA Cross Country National Championships last fall, competing in the 5000 meters.
“This entire group has plenty of national championship experience so I’m excited to see how they handle themselves,” Layne says about the women’s squad. “I feel like we’ve had a really good last week and a half.”
Baker headlines a group of three men competing in the 3,000 meters this weekend and enters the meet as the No. 7 seed. Sam Wehner and Jake Crow follow, seeded at No. 16 and No. 17, respectively. Junior Ronan Philippot and freshman Alex Windham look to represent a portion of the men’s distance medley relay, which qualified with Baker and Thacker early this season at the Finn Pincus Invitational. Senior Tons Ferguson represents the Buffs in the field events as he will compete in the triple jump, seeded No. 10.
Senior Hannah Bell rounds up the women’s qualifiers, seeded No. 22 in the 3000 meters after picking up her national qualifying mark to help Milligan capture the AAC Championship two weeks ago.
In all, the Milligan women are set to compete in the 1,000, 3,000 and 5,000, of which they rank No. 5, No. 4 and No. 2, respectively, in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Event Squad Rankings. The men currently rank No. 5 in the mile and No. 2 in the 3k.
Coming off a third-place finish at the AAC championships, Milligan’s swim team will be taking 12 members to the national championships, and head coach Spencer Scarth is confident in how his team has looked leading up to the championships.
"We've looked strong in the pool the last couple of days as taper slowly kicks in," he said. "It will be great for our graduating seniors to swim their last meet in Knoxville."
Matthew McFalls, Kaylee Propst and Anna Hathcock are the three seniors competing at the national championships from the Knoxville area. All three seniors have competed at the national championships every year they have been at Milligan. In individual events, McFalls will be competing in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle, Propst in the 200 backstroke and Hathcock in the 100 and 200 butterfly.
Junior Maggie Halloran, the AAC co-female swimmer of the year, will look to continue her success at the national level after earning two All-American nods at last season's national championships in the 100 and 200 backstroke. Halloran will compete again this year in the 100 and 200 backstroke, as well as the 500 freestyle. In the ACC championships, Halloran won three conference championships in the 1650 freestyle, 500 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
Four other members of the team will be returning to the national championships from last season. Junior Lindsey Grow will be returning after competing in four championship events in 2019. As an individual this year she will be competing in the 200 and 400 individual medley as well as the 100 breaststroke. Sophomore Logan Garzonio will compete this year in the 200 IM, 100 butterfly and 100 freestyle. Last year, Garzonio only competed individually in the 100 backstroke. Jarod Blazo will also be making another appearance at the national championships, competing individually again in the 200 backstroke, and Jordan Clark will be returning again to compete in the 100 butterfly.