CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 27, 2019) – Sophomore Gabrielle Mardis led the No. 9 Milligan College women's cross-country team to a runner-up finish in a deep field heavy with NCAA Division I and Division II competition Friday evening at the Queen City Invitational at McAlpine Creek Park. Mardis ran to a fourth-place finish individually with a 5k time of 18:16.
"Gabby and Nathan (Baker) 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."
Mardis was one of two Buffs in the top seven and the first of four Buffs in the top 25. Bekah Owen followed in seventh with a time of 18:26, then Katlyn Haas in 16th in 18:38 and Avery DeWolf in 24th in 18:48. Erica Stone (35th/19:04) rounded out the scoring for the Buffs, who finished 42 points off the lead and well ahead of third.
"I challenged our women a little coming into this meet because I knew they were ready to take a step," Layne said. "The fact that they stepped up the way they did says a lot about the character and buy-in of this crew."
The Facts | The Field | The Finish
Hannah Bell, Caitlin Dominy, Maci Cloninger and Ali Burns all finished inside or near the top 100 in a deep field of over 300 harriers. All nine Buffs ran a season best, including Mardis who ran her way into the Milligan record book for the second time this season. Mardis' time of 18:16 put her ninth on Milligan's list of all-time 5k runners.
The field consisted of mostly NCAA Division II schools, although several NCAA Division I schools were in the mix. Milligan finished behind only James Madison, a Division I school, to remain undefeated this season against all other levels of competition.
"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 runner-up finish, in fact, moved the Buffs to a season record of 44-1. No. 22 Tennessee Wesleyan University and Montreat College – receiving votes in the latest national poll – were the next two Appalachian Athletic Conference schools, finishing 12th and 16th, respectively, in the field of 39 teams.
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).