It marks the fourth and final discipline of the 2018-19 season and fourth time this year Milligan will compete at a USA Cycling national championship event.
The Buffaloes will look to continue this season’s success, which includes top 10 finishes at each of the previous three national championships. Milligan took fifth in track and ninth in mountain bike last fall before landing seventh at cyclocross during the winter season.
The Buffs finished sixth at last year’s road race title event but are still national champions in three of the last four. Head coach Zack Nave expressed how ready his team is for the challenge that lies ahead.
“I think we can be competitive for the overall (points),” he said. “We’re going in more motivated and in better fitness than in years past for the whole team, and everybody is riding really well. At the end of the day, it comes down to being in the right place at the right time, not running into trouble with mechanicals or anything like that. If we can avoid that, we have a good chance to be successful.”
Madeline Bemis, Vanessa Botero, Laney Butt, Manuela Escobar, Tori Kanizer, Helen Mitchell, Meade Plum and Marie Tutterow represent Milligan on the women’s side. Ruben Bacon, Isaac Bryant, Bobby Comfort, Keith Mullaly, Jonah Sanchez and Brian Sciba represent the men.
Time trials are scheduled to start the event Friday, and Milligan will put forward an undefeated group as Escobar, Bemis, Kanizer, Botero and Mitchell together are 6-0 in time trials this season. Bacon, Bryant, Comfort and Mullaly will compete in the men’s time trial Friday.
The event will continue Saturday and Sunday with the road race and criterium.
Milligan this season
This season has been another strong one for Milligan on the cycling circuit. Bemis, the individual national champion in the mountain bike discipline, went on to win the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference at cyclocross while Escobar won the conference in road season. On the men’s side, Mullaly won the conference during cyclocross while Bryant won the conference during road.
In fact, this road season saw Milligan win the conference by a landslide. Escobar, Bemis and Botero went one-two-three for the women while Bryant and Bacon went one-two for the men.
Sustained national championship success
Bemis’ national title during the mountain bike season in the fall marked Milligan cyling’s third individual national title in the 10-year history of the program. Additionally, the Buffaloes have won four team national titles, including a track national title in 2015 and road race national titles in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Lauretta Hanson captured Milligan cycling’s first national title in 2015, winning the overall omnium. Stephanie Nave, Zoe Mullins, Hannah Swan and Morgan Miller claimed the second individual title in 2016 when they won the team time trial during road season.
Harper highlights Buffs postseason awards
Milligan’s spring season is slowly ending. Aside from the cycling team scheduled to compete this weekend, no other teams are left on the schedule for 2018-19.
Only individuals from the track & field program have competition left: the Lenoir Rhyne Last Chance on Sunday, May 12, and the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships Thursday-Saturday, May 23-25.
Highlighting one final round of awards for the spring season was senior pitcher/outfielder Camron Harper, who earned a spot on the Appalachian Athletic Conference All-Conference second team and gold glove team. Harper led Milligan in wins and earned-run average on the mound and ranked No. 5 on the team in batting average at the plate.
Harper had one of the largest workloads in the nation as he ranked No. 38 in innings pitched per game (6.2).
Harper’s best start, perhaps of his career, came on senior day this season when he struck out eight in a nine-inning, complete-game shutout where he helped pitch the Buffs into the playoffs. It marked Harper's fourth complete game of the season and first shutout of his career. He did so allowing only six hits and no walks.
Milligan baseball ended the season 20-26 overall and 11-16 in the AAC. This marked Harper’s first all-conference award.