VANCOUVER, Wash. (November 19, 2021) – Milligan University became the third institution to ever capture both NAIA Men’s and Women’s Cross Country National Championships as the men’s and women’s cross country squads captured the first two NAIA team championships in program history at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Championship Course on Friday.
Sophomore Alyssa Bearzi became the first NAIA individual cross country champion in program history as the Buffs’ racked up seven All-American awards (four men, three women). Milligan’s men ran away with the school’s first-ever NAIA team title with a team score of a team score of 115, 60 spots ahead of St .Mary (Kan.) at 175. Milligan women had the individual national champion and three of the top 11 overall finishers. Head coach Chris Layne was named the NAIA Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year. The Buffs were also honored as the top combined program at the championship event.
Men of Milligan
A record four Buffs collected All-American status to push the program’s all-time count to 16 men’s cross country All-Americans. Milligan won the national title going away, with a team score of 115, 60 spots ahead of St .Mary (Kan.) at 175.
“Having the opportunity to sit back and watch this men’s team all year, I knew they were special, but this is a tough league at the top and you have to do it on the day and in this sport there are no givens,” said Layne. “I’m extremely proud of every guy in this program and this will be something they’ll take with them the rest of their lives.”
Sophomore Aaron Jones secured All-American status for the second-straight season as Milligan’s top finisher for a second-straight national championship meet. He clocked in at 25:21 to finish 11th overall.
Senior Nathan Baker became the second three-time NAIA cross country All-American in team history, following in the footsteps of Milligan Athletics Hall of Famer Austin Ellis. He finished 14th in his final run on the cross country course for the Buffs with a 25:29 time.
Sophomore Eli Cramer took home All-American honors for the second-straight season with a 25:40 effort to place 20th. Graduate student Will Stockley, running in his first national championship for the Buffs, took 27th in 25:47.
Junior Jake Crow closed the book on the Buffs’ top five with a 26:14 time, good for 58th.
Bearzi out-kicked the competition to win the NAIA individual national title and the Milligan University women’s cross country team won its first-ever NAIA National Championship at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Championship Course on Friday.
Milligan concludes the 2021 season undefeated against NAIA opponents. The Buffs had a program-record three All-Americans as three of the top 11 finishers were Milligan runners. Milligan’s winning team score of 122 was 19 points ahead of second place St. Francis.
“In this field, our ladies had to be darn near perfect today and they were,” said Layne. “I’ve said this before, but this is such a talented and resilient bunch and they absolutely put it together when it counted the most. I’m so happy for all of them.”
Bearzi entered the final lap of the race in third place and tracked down the leaders over the last 2k, kicking her way to an 18:14, capturing the individual national championship by two seconds, in 18:14. She bested a field of 338 runners en route to Milligan’s first-ever individual cross country title.
“Alyssa really started to turn the corner at the right time, so I felt both she and Lemi had a shot today,” said Layne. “They have worked in tandem and definitely helped each other take another step.”
Grad student Lemi Wutz reeled in her third NAIA cross country All-American honor and national top-10 showing, the first two coming as an undergrad at SCAD-Savannah. Wutz finished fifth overall in 18:29, her best-ever finish at an NAIA Cross Country National Championship race.
Avery DeWolf Burton became the fourth two-time women’s cross country All-American in school history, following in the footsteps of Milligan Hall of Famers Hannah Segrave, Gillian Giffen Johnson and Megan Lease. She placed 11th in her final go-around at cross country nationals with an 18:38 effort.
Junior Caitlin Dominy finished 61st in 19:17 and sophomore Gracie Allen completed Milligan’s top five in 73rd (19:24).
MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs. To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.