Mulligan wins MC Invitational to earn USA South Runner of the Week honors

Mulligan wins MC Invitational to earn USA South Runner of the Week honors

Maryville College's Lea Mulligan earned Runner of the Week honors from the USA South Athletic Conference, as the junior won the Maryville College Invitational.

The victory marks the second time this season Mulligan has won a race, as the Chattanooga, Tenn., native has been named USA South Runner of the Week on a pair of occasions.

"It's one thing to have a bust out, really good race, but I get excited when I see consistency," Head Coach Tyson Murphy said. "Two out of three races with a win really building her confidence as she learns how to be the person that other people are going after. She's not been in that position before, so she's running really well. I think it gives her some confidence going into the back half of our season, and ultimately, to the conference championships."

Mulligan ran the 6,000-meter course in a time of 24:12.14, as she bested 25 total runners.

Her efforts, along with Lilly Simms, helped the Scots to a second-place finish as a squad. Simms – a first-year runner for that Scots that has battled back-and-forth with Mulligan – finished third in the Friday afternoon event.

She posted a time of 25:39.54.

"It's double the chances of somebody winning a race," Murphy said. "Both are running strong. We all have good days and bad days. I told Lilly after the race, that although she didn't run the race that she wanted – her time was slower and she fell down twice there at the finish – I was really proud of her. I think it was her best race so far. She could have checked out early. When she knew it wasn't going to be her day, she could have checked out and quit. She kept going. Her face and the pain she was feeling about 1-and-a-half miles in to a 3.7 mile race said it all. I was really proud with how she hung in there."

Mulligan has won two of the three races she's competed in this season, as the junior has ranked in the Top 15 in all three.

The Girls Preparatory School product already has more Top-15 performances than all of her sophomore campaign. She had an 11th-place and a 13th-place finish during 2018.

"It's night and day," Murphy said. "It's a completely different runner. She's really, really dedicated to speed in the offseason. During the summer, traditionally, she does really long, slow runs. She's always been a runner. She didn't have the accolades last year, but she still had the passion. This year, she traded in some long runs for some tough track workouts. It's been a major investment in her season, and it's taken her competitive running to a whole other level."

Mulligan won the Mountaintop Invitational in Lookout Mountain, Ga., on Aug. 30 to start the season. She ran the course in a time of 12:41.40. Behind her performance, Maryville won the race as a team with an average time of 14:16 – more than 10 second faster than Covenant College in second.

She then came back with a 14th-place finish in the Mike and Mary Kay Invitational, running a time of 20:30 on the shorter course.

Mulligan won Friday afternoon's race, despite temps hovering around 92 degrees at the sound of the gun.

"I think there were one or two Covenant runners, Daniel [Beckett] on our men's side and Lea that were the only people that didn't realize it was 90-plus degrees," Murphy said. "They looked cool, calm and collected. I know a couple other athletes on other teams kind of ran like that, but our up front presence was really unaffected, and maybe even inspired, by how it could limit other people's performances."

Mulligan will lead the Scots on Saturday, as they take on the Greater Louisville Classic in Louisville, Ky.