Junior decathlete Chadd Pierce, who will only compete in three events Saturday, echoed his coach’s points. He said that the invitational is an opportune time to perfect the small techniques and details that can help set the team above its ACC opponents.
“It’s a good meet to fine-tune and get ready for ACCs,” Pierce said, adding that such meets usually help field athletes more than runners. “I think we have a chance to make a run at the ACC title.”
But first comes Saturday’s meet.
Langley said this year’s crop of teams will feature Duke, North Carolina State, North Carolina Central, Navy, East Carolina, Syracuse and a number of post-collegiate runners looking to qualify for the Olympic Trials.
Langley said that he doesn’t think there is any added pressure to perform in front of a home crowd, but rather an incentive to do so.
UNC will use that motivation to build on their performance at last weekend’s Duke Invitational, where they tallied 10 wins.
Athletes hoping to carry the momentum from that meet into Saturday and beyond include distance runners Isaac Presson and Ashley Verplank and senior sprinter Elizabeth Mott.
Presson, a sophomore, was less than one second away from breaking 14 minutes in the men’s 5,000 — topping his previous personal best time by more than eight seconds — while Verplank, a senior, took home individual wins in both the women’s 800 and 1,500.
Mott, meanwhile, won the women’s 400 with the fifth-fastest time in the country this season.
The men’s 4 × 400 team also won Saturday, running a time of 3:12.30 — an average of about 48.1 seconds per runner.
Langley said every member of that relay squad and all of UNC’s 400-meter runners, both men’s and women’s, have a chance to win an individual title at the ACC Championships.
“We’d love to have a few more ACC individual championships,” he said.
And that, he said, is why Saturday is important.
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