Good showing for Milligan in track and field

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   Going up against more established and more prestigious programs, the Milligan College track and field team did more than just hold its own at the Niswonger Invitational.
   Several Milligan runners finished high and had personal bests at Memorial Center/Dave Walker Track on Saturday.
   Milligan tallied two third-place finishes and one fourth-place finish in distance events while going up against many mid-major Division I track programs.
   "We don't have the depth, but we have individual athletes that are as good as you're seeing at the D-I level," Milligan head coach Chris Layne said.
   The most impressive Milligan performance came on the women's side, as Poland's Marta Zimon set a personal best in the women's 5,000 by coming in with a 17:35 clip.
   It was good enough for a third-place finish by Zimon, who has already qualified for the NAIA National Indoors in March.
   The nationals will be held on the same track.
   Zimon is one of the top runners in Poland, and will be one of the favorites to win the national championship in the 5,000.
   "Marta's run was huge," Layne said. "This puts her with the fastest time in the nation (in NAIA). This puts her in a position to win the national title."
   Zimon just joined the Milligan squad a few weeks ago, but has already shown that the next four years are going to be great for her.
   "We're very excited about the magnitude of Marta's run," Layne said. "The future is bright for her."
   The future also looks fine for freshman Megan Lease. Lease also netted a third-place finish in her event, that being the women's 3,000.
   Lease finished the race with a time of 10:35.17.
   Layne has been very happy with Lease's progress since she started at Milligan.
   "She was a 21 minute 5K runner in high school," Layne said. "Both Marta and Megan do what they're asked. They listen to what they have to do."
   On the men's side, Milligan's Ryan Starr finished fourth in the Men's 3,000 with a time of 8:56.05.
   The top three in the event were all Division I runners.
   "Ryann's time was his lifetime best," Layne said. "His goal was to run under nine minutes, and he was able to obtain his goal."
   Chris Wright did well after coming back from an injury. He finished 14th in the men's mile for the 'Buffs.
   "There's definitely room for improvement, but he's back on track as well," Layne said about Wright.
   Another personal best for Milligan was set by Shane Oakleaf. Oakleaf ran a 16:14.13 in the men's 5,000.
   This is a young Milligan team, but Saturday's strong performances should be stepping stones for the future.
   "This was a big day for our folks," Layne said. "We should be able to take some momentum and confidence into the rest of the season."