Her preliminary race in the hurdles Saturday drew cheers from onlookers as she waxed all competition in her heat with a time of 8.24. The finals were no different as James won with a time of 8.27.
“I was trying to run a time to qualify for nationals, so they told me not to race everyone else — race the clock,” James said. “The national record is 8.14. I am .1 seconds away from it.”
Freshman pole vaulter Merritt Van Meter’s jump of 13-1 1/4 feet sprung her to the No. 2 spot in the ACC. She uses her friendly rivalry with fellow vaulter Sandi Morris for competition and support.
“I had an injury that set me back, but it’s the best thing that she and I can be back together,” Van Meter said. “We’re best friends, roommates, and the only two people crazy enough to keep up with each other.”
They are both striding toward UNC’s peak vault of 13-2 1/2 feet set in 2004.
“One of us is going to crack it very soon,” Van Meter said.
Senior Patience Coleman tied for the No. 10 spot in the country with a high jump of 5-10 3/4 feet.
While the women enjoyed success in Chapel Hill, UNC coach Dennis Craddock and the top male runners traveled to Annapolis to test their abilities on a banked track.
UNC sprinters hoped the track at Naval Academy would produce faster times. Because the team will take only 28 athletes to the ACC Championships, the times racers accrue during the season are significant for ACC standings.
Without an invitation to Annapolis, the men who stayed to compete in Chapel Hill felt the pressure.
“It inspired a lot of them who didn’t get to make the trip to say, ‘OK, I have to step up my level,’” assistant coach Josh Langley said. “Not that we had lesser competition here by any means — we have some good teams in here — but it gives them the chance to state their case for the ACC team.”
In the spirit of breaking records, Langley noted the caliber of athleticism in the Eddie Smith Field House.
“That’s the beautiful thing about track and field, talent is talent and it doesn’t matter what school you are at,” he said. “If you are going fast, you have the opportunity to win.”
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