Jake Hurysz rounded out the top 14 and joined Cunningham and Watchempino as the third Tar Heel man to earn All-ACC honors.
In the women’s 6,000-meter race, Schaaf finished fourth with a time of 20:11.7. She led for most of the way but was eventually passed by N.C. State freshman Laura Hoer, who won the meet seven seconds ahead of Schaaf.
Beyond Schaaf, no other Tar Heel woman cracked the top 14, but sophomores Caroline Kirby and Mariana Lucena came closest. With a time of 21:05.2, Kirby secured 21st place while Lucena finished 10 seconds behind her in 29th.
In total, the team accrued 123 points and finished fifth, falling to a Florida State team that also dominated the men’s 8,000-meter run.
“We came in fifth, which is the same place we came in last year even though our team of girls this year are a lot better than last year’s,” Lucena said. “So we’re pretty bummed about it, but our eyes are now on the regionals and nationals …. Winning the ACC title would have been very nice, but we still feel like we’re a highly ranked team in the nation.”
Next on the Tar Heel agenda is the NCAA South Regional, which is slated for Nov. 13 in Louisville, Ky. While this year’s performances have put the Tar Heels in good position to qualify for the NCAA Championships on both fronts, their success — or lack thereof — in Louisville could ultimately decide their fate.
Despite this pressure and its youth, the men’s team feels prepared to handle the big stage.
“We’re pretty confident after this meet that we can go into the regional meet and do some damage,” Watchempino said. “I have a feeling that the atmosphere won’t really bother these guys.”
And while Saturday’s results weren’t up to par with their hopes, confidence isn’t an issue for the women either.
“I really feel like this season is the one, and the team of girls we have now is going to bring UNC back on the radar,” Lucena said. “I feel very confident in myself, in my training, in coach (Peter) Watson’s philosophy and all my teammates, and I feel like we can really do this this year.”
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