Milligan’s outdoor track and field team is hoping last weekend’s success in Knoxville will spark another wave of history as the AAC outdoor track and field championships begin today at Science Hill’s Kermit Tipton Stadium in Johnson City.
A year ago, boosted by similar results in the University of Tennessee Sea Ray Relays, Milligan’s teams combined for 12 individual titles and paved the way for the program’s first outdoor championship.
The squad will be led by this week’s AAC men’s and women’s most outstanding track athletes in Fitzroy Harris and Gillian Giffen.
Harris, a sophomore, ousted a field that included Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Middle Tennessee State in a 0.4-second victory over UNC-Charlotte’s Chris Mathews in the 400-meter run with a mark of 48.37. Already holding the school record for the event, Harris has qualified for the NAIA national meet.
“I know Fitzroy will gain confidence from this effort, and we’re looking forward to seeing him turn the corner into the 47 second range,” said Milligan coach Chris Layne in a release from the school.
Giffen, the reining AAC runner of the year, qualified for the national meet last weekend with a second place finish in the 5,000-meter run. The senior has earned multiple NAIA All-American honors and is on pace for another strong effort in the conference meet where she led the field one year ago.
“Gillian has made tremendous progress in her four years,” Layne said. “A lot of it simply has to do with the fact that she’s just tougher than everyone else.”
Milligan has multiple participants in the majority of the events taking place today.
Yolanda Migoyo, Suzanne Johnson and Caitlin Wood will compete in both the 100 and 400 meter dash.
On the men’s side, The Buffs will have three battling in the 100 meter dash as Kevin Mowatt and Eurenna Semper join Harris against three Montreat runners.
The trio will compete in the 400 alongside senior Dwayne Jordan.
Milligan will be guaranteed a title in the 400 meter hurdles event with Shannon Wilson, Paxton Stephenson and Cassie St. John making up the three-person field on the women’s side.
In the 800 meter run, Christine McMahon and Mackenzie Patten are slated to compete in the event for the women, while Jordan and Brendan Hawkins take to the men’s side.
Milligan’s men will be led in the 1500 meter run by Austin Ellis with Brendan Hawkins and Justin Little in the field. Four Lady Buffs will compete including Catie McMahon, Christine McMahon, Patten and Giffen.
Giffen coming off the strong outing in Knoxville leads a cast of four including Elizabethton’s Janey Robinson, Danielle Mitchell and Paxton Stephenson in the 5K whereas Ellis, who is a multiple AAC cross-country runner of the year winner and NAIA All-American, leads a men’s field including Matt Murphy, Nathan Meeuwenberg and David Lawler.
Ellis has already qualified for nationals in the 10,000-meter event after a school record time of 30:45.11 in Knoxville.
Milligan, without a female participant in the two events, will have Brandon Sissel and J.B. Huff battling for the medal in the high jump with Sissel and Morgan Higgins duking it out in the long jump
Freshman Janie Smith will try to bring the title home for Milligan in the discus and shot put, while three Buffs in Joe Camarata, Shaka Andrew and Tanner Payne, the defending discus titlist and a reigning All-American, each compete in both events for the men.
Today’s event begins at 3 p.m.