ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (Oct. 25, 2019) – In a meet which pitted two nationally ranked cross-country programs against one another, Milligan College came out on top in both the women's race and the men's race. Avery DeWolf led the No. 7 Milligan women to a perfect score with one of the fastest times in Milligan history before Nathan Baker ran a Milligan record 5k time of 14:56 as the Buffaloes defeated Montreat College twice on the Tweetsie Trail Friday evening.
"It's really difficult to just talk about one or two of these guys today, but of course Avery and Nathan stand out, and then you have really tough squads behind both of them," Head Coach Chris Layne said. "On the men's side, there is just a ton of depth, and then the women are so close in fitness and talent so I expect to see us swap positions from time to time."
Milligan, Montreat battle in loaded field
Indeed, the field was loaded with some of the top runners in the nation. The women's race featured a handful of national qualifiers and All-Americans, both from Milligan and Montreat. Erica Stone is a two-time indoor track & field All-American in the 1000 meters; Gabrielle Mardis is an indoor All-American in the 3000 meters; and the field was heavy with national qualifiers and national championship experience.
On the men's side, Baker was the 2018 indoor track & field national champion at 3000 meters. Tim Thacker, a national runner-up in the mile and All-American in the mile and 1500 meters, was Friday's runner-up. Tyler Bates, also in the mix, is a two-time All-American in the marathon, and similarly, both Milligan and Montreat were full of national championship qualifiers and contenders.
"What we saw today is commensurate with where I believe both of these teams are right now," Layne said. "They came in really fit and that allowed us to make sound decisions thus far in the season. When we talked about putting this together, the goal was to create an environment that gave both programs the opportunity to recognize their fitness at an important part in the season."
The point to point race ran along the Tweetsie Trail from mile point one just past mile point four from Johnson City to Elizabethton and represented the second time Milligan hosted a cross-country race this season. In the previous race, the men tallied a perfect score as Milligan defeated Tennessee Wesleyan University on both sides.
DeWolf, Buffs stampede their way to victory
DeWolf (17:44) leaped into the Milligan records, moving to No. 2 all-time among fastest 5k cross-country harriers in Milligan history, trailing only four-time national champion and Milligan Athletics Hall of Fame member Hannah Segrave who ran 17:08 in 2016.
Bekah Owen (17:51), Amy Ferguson (18:06), Katlyn Haas (18:12) and Gabrielle Mardis (18:12) all jumped into the all-time top 10 for Milligan 5k as well, rounding out the top five for Milligan's perfect score, but the Buffs were not done at just the top five. Erica Stone (18:15) and Hannah Bell (18:34) went six-seven, and Ali Burns (18:53), Caitlin Dominy (19:11) and Maci Cloninger (19:13) went 10-11-12. Rebecca Glover (21:17) also earned a spot in the top 20 at 19th overall.
Milligan, ranked No. 7 nationally, finished with a final tally of 15 points compared to Montreat's 50 points. The two teams ranked No. 2 and No. 4 in the Appalachian Athletic Conference while Montreat's women were receiving votes in the NAIA coaches top 25 poll.
Baker sets record in win for men
Led by a record-setting time from Baker, Milligan rewrote the record book on the men's side. Baker's time of 14:56 became the fastest in Milligan men's 5k history, while Tim Thacker (15:06), Alex Mortimer (15:28), Jake Crow (15:31) and Cory Aulich (15:35), rounding out Milligan's top five, all moved onto Milligan's all-time list as well. Two-time cross-country All-American Taylor Tafelsky, who ran a 15:39 in 2016, set the previous record.
Following the group of five Buffs who made their way into the record book, Andrew Burton (15:39) placed ninth, Pablo Rivas (15:44) 11th, Bates (15:45) 12th, Ethan Pfister (15:48) 14th and Eli Baldy (15:48) 15th to round out the top 15.
Milligan, ranked No. 13 nationally, won on the men's side with a total of 21 points, claiming the top two and five of the top seven spots.
Milligan heads to the AAC Championships and NAIA Championships, set for Saturday, Nov. 9, and Friday, Nov. 22, respectively. The women have won the AAC meet 14 of the last 16 years while the men have won two of the last four. Last season, both teams finished runner-up at the AAC meet before landing 12th (women) and 17th (men) at the national championships.