UNC track and field misses podium at ACCs

Pete Rehder could only watch — one of the worst mental-strength exercises for an athlete — as his team fell one point shy of third place in the ACC.

Rehder, a senior pole vaulter on the North Carolina track and field team, has missed, begrudgingly, most of this season with a hamstring injury, including this weekend’s ACC Outdoor Championships in Raleigh.

The men’s team placed fourth and the women’s sixth, but Rehder, whom the coaches decided to sit this weekend in hopes of healing the injury and readying him for a post-season run, is convinced he could have scored points in the pole vault and thereby lifted his team to third.

Junior distance runner Isaac Presson said the team was hoping to land in the top three.

And Rehder said he could have helped UNC get there by landing a spot on the podium.

But by attending the meet and supporting his teammates in what would have been his last ACC meet as a college athlete, Rehder demonstrated his loyalty to the program, assistant coach Josh Langley said.

“It shows from the moment he’s walked on this campus he’s been a team player,” Langley said. “We have a senior that has bought into what (head coach Harlis) Meaders has put into the program.”

Four of Rehder’s workout partners, Joe Hutchinson, Ryan Ramsey, Paul Haley and Chadd Pierce, placed in the top five in the decathlon at the meet. Hutchinson won, Ramsey was second, Haley third and Pierce fifth. Their finishes were fueled by their friendly, but serious, competition in practice.

“Going one, two, three, five in the decathlon was a huge surprise,” Langley said. “They compete every day in practice against each other.”

Hutchinson, a sophomore, was pinned as the favorite to win after his closest competitor pulled his hamstring in the first event of the decathlon, the 100-meter dash.

“Joe thrives on competition,” Langley said, adding that the reduced pressure from having one less opponent allowed him to calm down and “focus on the task at hand.”

Presson almost gave North Carolina another individual gold medal. He placed second in the men’s 1,500 meters, finishing exactly one second behind the winner. His time was 3:45.18.

“The goal was to win,” he said.

Presson said he had two race strategies, depending on the opening pace. If it was slow, he would take the lead after 500 meters. If it was fast, he would take it with 250 meters left and try to hold on. Neither happened: The pace was moderate, and Presson had to adjust.

“In retrospect I probably would’ve liked to be a little more patient,” he said. “(But) it’s always a good thing when a disappointment is second at ACCs.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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