All four teams boast a handful of individuals with some of the nation’s top marks.
BROWN, MALLER LEAD TRACK & FIELD SQUADS
Freshman Rasheem Brown is No. 1 in the NAIA in the 60 meter hurdles with a Milligan record time of 7.88. He ran it at the ETSU Track & Field Invitational two weeks ago on the way to earning the men’s track athlete of the meet nod. Brown also ranks No. 26 in the 60 meters with a 6.96.
Other Buffaloes in the top 25 include junior Tons Ferguson, who posted a 14.77m result in the triple jump, and freshman Noah Bise, who posted a 6.86m result in the long jump. Ferguson and Bise both broke the Milligan record in their events. Five more Buffs rank in the top 30 nationally in their individual events.
These high individual rankings have helped Milligan earn the No. 38 spot on the first national poll of the season, released Wednesday. Milligan is No. 4 in the South Region behind three other Appalachian Athletic Conference schools.
On the women’s side, senior Liz Maller owns two spots in the top 10 as one of seven Buffs in the top 25. Maller threw a Milligan record 17.37m result in the weight throw and a 13.41m result in the shot put this season. They rank No. 5 and No. 9 respectively.
Junior Erica Stone also has a top 10 time, posting a 2:20 in the 800 meter run which is good for No. 9.
Milligan’s women rank No. 29 in the NAIA, and, like the men, are No. 4 in the South Region behind three AAC schools.
Head coach Chris Layne noted how good the conference has become in a short amount of time.
“I think the first thing that stands out is how good the AAC has become overnight,” he said. “We’ll see a lot of movement in the rankings as the season progresses and more athletes start to compete. It’s just so early right now.”
Milligan will look to pick up more national qualifying marks and school records this weekend when the Buffaloes head to Salem, Virginia, for the Finn Pincus Invitational Friday and Saturday.
“We’re traveling a pretty deep squad to Roanoke this weekend,” Layne said, “and a lot of what we’re doing is geared toward setting everyone up to maximize the conference and national championships.”
LEVARITY LEADS MEN’S BASKETBALL, COMMITTEE LEADS WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
Senior Aaron Levarity has continued his monster senior season and is a big reason the Buffaloes have won 10 straight games. In Milligan’s most recent victory, Levarity posted his 16th double-double of the season to lead Milligan past No. 11-ranked Union College, 80-75.
The win was a big one for the Buffaloes, who improved their AAC standing in an ever-tightening league race. Milligan is third in the AAC, one game off the lead, at 16-5 (11-4) and is receiving votes toward the NAIA top 25.
“Winning and losing streaks create momentum,” head coach Bill Robinson said. “When winning, you feel like you can beat anyone, anytime. In the midst of a losing streak, you wonder if you will ever win again. It is a mentality, and we want to make it last as long as possible.”
In the rankings, Levarity is No. 4 in NAIA Division II in double-doubles, one of five categories that has him in the top eight nationally. As a team, Milligan ranks No. 2 in 3-point field goal percentage defense and No. 7 in field goal percentage defense.
“It’s always great to see all your hard work come together,” Robinson said. “This is a special group of young men and our chemistry on and off the court has been unbelievable. The guys are willing to share the basketball and sacrifice for each other at the defensive end. When you share the ball and defend together, good things happen.”
Milligan’s women, winners of eight of the last nine games, have been sharing the basketball, too. Five Buffs are averaging over 9.0 points per game with senior Sarah Robinson in the team lead at 11.5.
Robinson has put together another remarkable season, crossing off her 1,500th career point earlier this month and approaching her 1,000th career rebound. Andi Lamb (10.4) and Kaely Gose (10.3) follow behind Robinson in points per game, and Mackenzie Raizor has posted seven double-doubles, and one triple-double, with 9.9 points and a team most 8.7 rebounds.
As a team led by committee, none of the Buffs are in the top 25 individually in any statistical category, but Milligan ranks high in numerous team categories. Milligan is No. 3 nationally in blocks per game and total blocks, top 10 in three rebounding categories, and No. 25 in scoring offense. The Buffs have put together two streaks of seven or more wins this season and have a record of 8-2 in 2019.
“I’m very pleased with the way we’ve played since our return from Christmas break,” head coach Rich Aubrey said. “We’ve played defense, we’ve rebounded very well, and we are continuing to grow offensively. We’re looking forward to this continued stretch of games that will lead us into the postseason.”
Both Milligan teams will continue their push toward conference tournament and national tournament play as they host Reinhardt University Saturday for their next game. Opening tip-offs are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.