Wright bright spot for Milligan

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY--Although the Milligan track team didn't take home another national title this year, sophomore Chris Wright finished fifth in the nation in the men's 3000-meter race.
   After qualifying Friday with a time of 8:40.40, Wright shaved more than two seconds from his time in the final to stand proudly among the nation's top finishers and accept his award Saturday at the NAIA national track and field championships held at ETSU.
   "I was hoping to get in the top three," Wright said after the race. "The time I wanted to run, my goal time, would have gotten me top three, but I didn't run that time. I ran nine seconds slower than that. I was hoping to run 8:28 - that would have gotten me second or third, but it didn't happen."
   Wright ran the 3000 in 8:37.94 for the fifth-place honor, beating his 8:39.19 time from the Virginia Tech Challenge on February 14th in Blacksburg, Va.
   The sophomore from Maryland also ran a leg of the men's distance medley relay, along with freshmen Sean Bowman, Jair Colley and Josh Ferry. The DMR team finished seventh in the nation with a time of 10:25.57.
   "I still ran my best, and I saved a little for the DMR, which I didn't run too well in that," said Wright. "Our team still finished seventh in the nation. There's nothing wrong with that. It's still awesome."
   The team qualified Thursday with a time of 10:16.69, finishing 8th out of 15 teams vying for a chance to run in the national finals.
   Milligan track coach Chris Layne was also still pleased with the results.
   "They came in seeded 11th," he said. "To be three freshmen and a sophomore, I'm excited for those guys as well. I told them before the race, I said guys, this is icing on the cake, whatever you do here."
   In Friday's individual preliminaries, Bowman finished the men's mile with a time of 4:28.23. Ferry finished fourth of 18 runners in the men's 800 meter preliminaries, qualifying with a time of 1:55.46.
   Besides Wright, also competing in the individual finals Saturday were sophomore runners Marta Zimon and Megan Lease, and Ferry running for the men. Zimon and Lease finished 10th and 12th in the women's 5000 meter. Last year's national champion Zimon, who ran in the front of the pack throughout most of the race, finished with a time of 18:29.95, two seconds longer than her performance in ETSU's Niswonger Invitational in January.
   "The early leg of that race was much faster, and she really would have had to have been on the top of her game to keep that rhythm going," Layne said of Zimon's race. "You also have to go to top notch mentally. Keeping your goals in perspective is more important than long-term goals at this point."
   Lease took the 12th place national finish with a time of 18:42.26. Ferry, who competed in the men's 800 meter finals, finished 8th in 1:57.70 minutes.
   Wright's performance in the 3000 meter run earned the Milligan men two points, locking them in a tie with Graceland University for 43rd in the nation as a college. Taking both the men's and women's national titles was Azusa Pacific University.