Buffs brace for national championship

By Michelle Pope

   The Milligan track team will send five runners to the NAIA national championship this weekend in hopes of more championship titles to add to Marta Zimon's top finish in the women's 5000 meter last year. The championship will be held in the Mini-Dome at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City from March 4 to March 6.
   "I expect that all our folks will be in the finals," said Buffalo track coach Chris Layne. "Making the finals will be the first step."
   While the Pentathlon events will begin at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 4, Milligan's first event will be the Men's Distance Medley relay. The relay start times will stretch from 4:45 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Jair Collie, Trevor Donovan and Sean Bowman will run three-fourths of the relay for the Buffs, who are ranked tenth of 15 teams.
   "It's a great facility," said Layne of ETSU's track. "It's one of the bigger tracks. We've always seen very competitive times there." Layne said the Milligan runners usually handle the long track well. "Ultimately, that track has been good to us," he said.
   The individual events will be held on Friday, March 5. On the men's team, freshmen Josh Ferry and Sean Bowman, and sophomore Chris Wright will compete in individual races. Wright is ranked ninth in the 3000 meter and Ferry is ranked fifth for the 800 meter run. Bowman, ranked 14th, will run the mile for Milligan.
   For the women, sophomore runner Zimon will try to defend her 5000 meter championship from last year with an 11th place ranking this year. Megan Lease, also a sophomore, is ranked 17th in the 5000 meter preliminaries.
   Layne says that the team's youthfulness will come in handy during the competition this weekend, as the energetic team doesn't know the meaning of the word 'tired'.
   "The way we set up training, there is four to five weeks that the team starts to taper down," Layne said. "They're getting the ice baths, the chiropractic massages, the works."
   Layne has complete confidence that his team will fare well against the top track competitors in the nation. "I think there's a lot of nervous excitement, but I think they're ready," he said. "Their performances have spoken for themselves, and I think they're ready to race coming into the championship."