Buffs prime for national indoor meet

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY--In a meet where it's going to be the best of the best, the Milligan College track and field team has a good chance to hit the jackpot at the NAIA Indoor National Championships this week.
   Milligan's Marta Zimon will be the favorite to win the women's 5,000 meters at the event, which starts with relay events on Thursday night and runs through Saturday at Memorial Center/Dave Walker Track.
   Zimon just arrived from Poland two months ago after being one of the country's top runners there.
   Her arrival to the U.S. has been a good one.
   Zimon currently has the top time in the country in the 5,000 with a 17:27.30 clip.
   The only drawback for Zimon is that she is a freshman, but Milligan head coach Chris Layne doesn't believe nerves will be a factor because of her exposure to international competition.
   "I think Marta understands big competitions," Layne said. "She has a lot of confidence. I think through her races she's thinking, 'I'm getting faster.' I think she's going to be prepared, and she's a cool cat."
   Layne knows Zimon must race her best despite being the favorite.
   "In running there are many variables that can happen during a race," Layne said. "We've had success at that in the past, and we're not going to change anything."
   Another Milligan qualifier in the women's 5,000 is Megan Lease. Lease has been overshadowed by Zimon this winter, but has had a fine season in her ownright.
   Lease also qualified in the 3,000, but has elected to run in this event.
   "Megan hasn't run in the 5,000 since early season," Layne said about Lease, whose qualifying time is 18:42. "Megan is prepared to run a lot faster. We've prepared her to be in the top six or eight. I really think we're going to see her in the hunt for a top-eight finish."
   This is just the start of great things for Zimon and Lease, as they both have three years of eligibility left in track and cross-country.
   "We're focusing on the task at hand," Layne said. "But I see these guys buzzing about what we're going to do in cross country next year."
   On the men's side, Ryan Starr will compete in the 3,000 meter run. Starr also made it to the nationals in cross-country, so he should prepared for this week.
   "The goal for Ryan is to get into the final, and try to run another personal best," Layne said. "He's confident and has nothing to lose."
   Starr is a senior, so this means it's his last event indoors.
   "He said, 'we've got to take advantage,' Layne commented. "He's going to go after it, but you can't lay it on the line too much, or you'll go over that threshold.
   The final national qualifier from Milligan is Terence Gadsden, who will be competing in the 400 meter dash.
   Gadsden made the quick switch after running cross-country in the fall to sprinting, but has adjusted quite nicely.
   "He's a trooper," Layne said. "We really needed him in cross-country. He's also good in the high jump, and we may dabble with him in the high jump during the spring. It will be interesting to see what happens with him in the 400, then during the switch to outdoors."
   With the event being held on the campus of East Tennessee State University, Milligan's athletes will be able to sleep in their own beds during the event.
   "We want to maximize this opportunity," Layne said. "Being able to drive 10 minutes to the nationals is a plus."
   Layne also wants local track and field fans to come out and support these athletes.
   "I encourage folks to come out and watch," he said. "Anybody who is a fan of track and field should come out and watch."