UNC cross country has strong showing, despite injuries

North Carolina junior runner Patrick Schellberg wasn’t happy with his workouts leading up to Friday’s meet, and his mileage was far below what he’s used to.

But when Schellberg took the starting line at the Notre Dame Invitational, none of it seemed to matter.

Schellberg, who has been dealing with a foot injury, ran a personal-best time of 24:12 in the men’s 8K — one of 11 UNC runners to record a personal record in their respective races. He led the men’s team to an 11th-place finish in the nationally renowned 20-team meet.

“Coming in, I was kind of nervous about where I was at,” said Schellberg, the team’s highest individual finisher at 21st place. “Workouts weren’t going as well as I would have liked.”

Schellberg said he would have been happy if he ran around 24:30. So his teammates were understandably, and happily, surprised to see him run 18 seconds faster than that.

“It was incredible to see,” junior Isaac Presson said. “I think it was good for him confidence-wise to come out strongly.”

Sophomore Jack Driggs felt similarly.

“I was a bit happier with Patrick Schellberg,” Driggs said, adding that Schellberg has only been running around 55 miles a week since he’s been back from the injury — a far cry from what he usually runs.

“He set the tone for us.”

Schellberg, Presson and Driggs all said their strategy was to start out conservatively — Driggs and Schellberg hit the mile mark around 4:40 with more than 70 runners ahead of them — and gradually pick off their competitors.

Driggs (24:25) finished 40th, and Presson (24:36) came in 60th.

But both runners said they might have been a bit too restrained in the early parts of the race.

“I think this race I was a little more timid than I would’ve liked,” Presson said, while Driggs vowed to be “a little more aggressive” in the team’s next meet, the Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 12.

That meet will be an opportunity for both the men’s and women’s teams to improve on their results at Notre Dame.

“Considering how training’s going for us, I think we can definitely improve from that,” Presson said.

Another surprising finish came from sophomore Ryan Walling, who Presson said head coach Mark VanAlstyne almost decided not to run in the varsity race because of a sickness.

Walling (24:32) was the third UNC runner to cross the line, and he placed 53rd.

“Ryan Walling was huge,” Driggs said.

Huge and unexpected — the theme of the meet for UNC.

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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