The North Carolina men’s and women’s cross country teams competed Friday at the Covered Bridge Invite in Boone, North Carolina, where the men took fifth and the women placed second, just one point shy of first place.
The meet, which did not count in points toward nationals, offered freshmen a chance to get some racing experience at a collegiate level. VanAlstyne said the coaches also wanted to evaluate runners that are on the bubble for making the travel squad. The men’s team did not race any of their top seven, and the women’s team raced only three of their top seven runners, VanAlstyne said.
“First and foremost, we wanted to get some of our younger athletes on the women’s side to have opportunities for a low-key, low pressure entry into college level racing, and I think we got that,” VanAlstyne said.
Alcorta, Christen and Norris took full advantage of that opportunity, placing second, fourth and fifth respectively.
“It’s nice to have a race done before the bigger meets start coming,” Alcorta said.
Five more members of the women’s team finished in the top 25, which was enough for the Tar Heels to edge Appalachian State for second place by one point.
On the men’s side, senior Dan Mykityshyn led the Tar Heels with a fourth place finish.
“I thought Dan Mykityshyn looked really, really good,” VanAlstyne said. “We got to see what he’s capable of last spring in the ACC steeplechase outdoors, and he’s kind of picked right up where he left off. There were a few really, really strong guys he beat in the race, so I was excited for him.”
Sophomore Mitch McLeod, a transfer from Appalachian State, also stood out with a 14th place finish. The men’s team only raced five athletes.
Both the men’s and women’s teams have high expectations for the year, with the men’s team coming off a 17th place finish at nationals last year. The women’s team looks to improve on last season after some strong performances during the track and field season, as well as the addition of a talented recruiting class.
But for this first meet, UNC focused on shaking out some of the butterflies early in the season.
“I liked getting the experience,” Christen said. “It was a lower team meet, which was nice to open up, because we were nervous, but not too nervous as if it had been a meet that actually counted for points toward nationals.”
Without its top athletes, the team raced more to see where it was at and to prepare its members for more competitive meets to come.
“We got to see what we needed to see," VanAlstyne said. "Everyone is healthy, and we’re looking to the next meet now."