CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 27, 2019) – Nathan Baker and three other Buffs earned a top 20 finish to help the No. 16 Milligan College men's cross-country team earn runner-up at the Queen City Invitational Friday at McAlpine Creek Park. Baker landed eighth individually with a personal best time of 25:30.
"Gabby (Mardis) and Nathan are starting to find their rhythm," Head Coach Chris Layne said, "and then they have a group behind them that continues to prove they have each other's backs. We've worked hard to develop depth and when you have (hot) conditions like today, it pays off."
Tim Thacker (15th/25:50), Jake Crow (16th/25:51) and Alex Mortimer (18th/25:59) all finished within seconds of one another. Ethan Pfister (38th/26:29) rounded out the scoring for the Buffs, who were undefeated entering Friday and coming off a perfect score their last time out. Milligan finished second only to Augusta University and ahead of third-place Flagler by 20 points.
"Because of the heat, we adjusted the men's plan just before race time," Layne said. "I was a little worried it might come back to haunt us, but it worked out."
Eight other Buffs earned results in the race despite the scorching conditions which saw a handful of the near-400 entrants unable to finish. Cory Aulich, Pablo Rivas and Andrew Burton all finished in the top 65 within 10 seconds of one another; Evan Henson, Mitch Bronstetter and Eli Baldy were in the top 80 within four seconds of one another; and Samir Koko and Seth Nicol rounded out the Buffs' results inside the top 200. A total of 320 runners finished the men's race.
"I'm not sure I've seen tougher conditions heat-wise for a cross-country meet," Layne said. "On top of that, I think the dust played a role because it never settled and the athletes also had that to deal with this afternoon."
The field consisted of mostly NCAA Division II schools, although several NCAA Division I schools were in the mix. Augusta, one of 25 Division II schools represented at the race, won the team title with four in the top six and five in the top 10. Several competing teams were in the top 25 in their respective division, and Milligan defeated them all.
Among the others nationally ranked, Appalachian Athletic Conference member Montreat, No. 20 in the latest NAIA poll, placed fifth. Tennessee Wesleyan, also an AAC member, placed 23rd.
Milligan hosts a dual race with Montreat Friday, Oct. 25, on the Tweetsie Trail before moving into the championship portion of the season with the AAC Championships (Nov. 8) and NAIA Championships (Nov. 22).