The men placed 12th overall of the 31 at the national meet Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind., the team's second best finish in history. Walling led the team with a 48th place finish, missing out on All-American by eight spots.
“I was happy with it. I felt like I ran as hard as I could,” he said. “It was a little bittersweet, it being my last cross country season and missing All-American by a little bit, but I was really happy with how I fought for my guys and how we finished.”
Junior Stephen Mulherin and senior John Raneri finished next for the Tar Heels in 85th and 87th respectively. Senior Pat Schellberg and sophomore Mark Derrick rounded out the team score in 106th and 130th.
These seem like huge gaps between the runners, but the five runners finished within 46 seconds of each other — a testament to the competitive nature of nationals.
“It’s just such a fine line between 40th and 80th. It’s just 20 seconds, and at this level, everyone’s so good you don’t even notice that small of a margin,” Walling said.
It was the first time in 40 years that the men’s team qualified for nationals two years in a row, and they improved by five spots from their 2013 finish.
The women’s team, which finished 22nd overall, did not have the race they wanted or expected. After winning the ACC championship and running a strong race at regionals, they were looking to impress. It was the team’s first time reaching nationals since 2010.
Senior Annie LeHardy crossed the line first for the Tar Heels in 49th place. The top-5 UNC women finished within 47 seconds of each other — almost the same spread between the men — but LeHardy was the only one to finish in the top 100.
“I think the biggest difference between this meet and ACCs is just the name,” she said. “I mean, nationals is huge, it can be very intimidating.”
Redshirt junior Lizzy Whelan and senior Karley Rempel finished together in 150th and 151st places, followed closely by true freshman Hannah Christen in 158th, who moved up 14 spots in the second 3,000 meters of the race. Redshirt senior Lianne Farber closed out the top 5 in 163rd place.
"Some days you just get out there, and for some reason, it just doesn't go according to plan," LeHardy said. "And that’s the tough part about running, you just can’t explain certain things, and you just have to keep going, and so that’s what I’m going to do.”