New era in UNC track starts at home

As the North Carolina track and field team heads into its first meet of the year, senior sprinter Clayton Parros has great hope for the program that underwent major changes in the offseason.

This weekend, UNC will host and compete in the Dick Taylor Invitational led by some fresh faces — including that of UNC alumnus and new head coach Harlis Meaders.

“There was a good atmosphere before, but now it’s just amazing,” Parros said. “The coaches came in and just created a real family atmosphere.

“I think the coaching staff is doing a lot of great things for this program, and I’m excited to see how this year’s going to go.”

Following a long fall of practice and conditioning, Meaders said, he sees the weekend as a chance for the team to get a long-awaited taste of competition and live up to its high expectations.

“We’re excited to get the season started,” Meaders said. “It’ll be good to see some schools of different colors and actually get a chance to compete a little bit.

“Our goal for the season, our theme for the season, is simply to be a ‘better blue.’ When you think of Carolina, you think of excellence. … So we want to be the Carolina that people expect.”

Parros said sprinting coach Steve Rubin has helped him get into the best shape of his life, although some of his teammates are still trying to get their legs back.

Junior hurdler Roy Smith, who spent the fall playing wide receiver on the football team, admits to getting off to a slow start on the track.

“The transition is a little tough from football in the fall back to track,” Smith said. “But since I run the (400-meter) hurdles, some of the conditioning we do for football correlates to what I do in track.

“I’m just really falling back into things and getting where I’m supposed to be.”

With a long season ahead, Parros said he and his teammates will likely use the first meet to get rid of early-season butterflies. The team’s focus this weekend will simply be to remain healthy and perform to its potential.

“The goal is for everyone to stay healthy — go into the meet healthy and come out healthy,” Parros said.

“I would like to see everyone execute whatever plan they put together for the meet. Because if you execute the first meet, you won’t have problems executing in the future.”

Parros said he hopes the team will not take its first meet lightly, but rather use it as an opportunity to present a confident face to its competition.

“People are gunning for us, but some might underestimate us,” he said.

“It’s just about everyone being confident in what they can do and knowing that when they step out on the track this weekend, nobody can touch them.”

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