CANTON, Ga. (Nov. 9, 2019) – Junior Nathan Baker earned Appalachian Athletic Conference Runner of the Year, and the No. 15 Milligan College men's cross country team won the AAC Championship Saturday morning at Boling Park. This marked the third time in the last five years Milligan won the AAC title on the men's side.
Head Coach Chris Layne was named the AAC Men's Cross Country Coach of the year following the event.
Baker won the men's 8k with a personal best time of 25:01, approximately five seconds ahead of junior Tim Thacker (25:05) as the individual runner-up. The pair finished 1-2 to lead a pack of three Buffs in the top five and five Buffs in the top 13. Baker's time moved him to No. 5 in the Milligan record book for all-time fastest Milligan runners over 8k, while Thacker's time moved him to No. 7.
"Having been in the conference longer than anyone else, it's so rewarding to see how competitive the AAC has become," said Layne, who earned AAC coach of the year for the 24th time, fifth time for men's cross country. "Hats off to all of our athletes and coaches."
Baker, Thacker among many highlights for Buffs
Junior Alex Mortimer took the next spot for the Buffs, finishing fifth in 25:33, and freshman Jake Crow came next in ninth at 25:52. Senior Mitch Bronstetter rounded out the scoring for Milligan in 13th in 26:18. All five Buffs ran season bests.
Milligan tallied 30 points as a team, way ahead of No. 20-ranked Montreat College who finished runner-up with 46 points. SCAD Atlanta was even further behind in third with 92 points.
"The men executed so well today," Layne said. "They got out well, established position, then maintained a ton of poise to finish things off. Baker and Thacker had to beat the AAC defending champion who had already run 24:42 this year, so I think that says a lot about their performances."
With finishes in the top seven, Baker, Thacker and Mortimer all made the AAC All-Conference first team. Crow and Bronstetter made the All-Conference second team, with Crow additionally making the AAC All-Freshman team. Layne's fifth time earning men's cross-country coach of the year brought his career tally to 24 counting men's and women's cross country and track & field.
Milligan will head to the NAIA Cross Country National Championship, set for Friday, Nov. 22, in Vancouver, Washington. The men's race is set for 1:30 p.m. eastern time with the women's race to follow at 2:30 p.m. Last season, Milligan finished 17th on the men's side and 12th on the women's side.