UNC track and field finishes third at Battle of the Blues meet

The North Carolina men’s and women’s track and field teams competed in the second Battle of the Blues meet on Saturday, April 1, in Durham, NC.

The Tar Heels competed against the men’s and women’s track and field teams from Duke and Michigan. The men’s team placed third with 45 points to Michigan’s 101 and Duke’s 54, while the women’s team also finished in third in a competitive meet with 59 points behind first-place Duke (72 points) and runner-up Michigan (62).

What happened?

The Tar Heels men’s team dominated in the horizontal jumps Saturday in securing 14 of their 45 total points in the long jump and triple jump. A trio of sophomores finished 1-2-3 in the long jump, with Zay Paschall jumping 7.09m for first-place, Joey Souza finishing in second with a leap of 6.97m, and Darryl Shaw following in third with a jump of 6.89m. In the triple jump, Shaw and sophomore RaeKwon Villines placed second and fourth, respectively.

The men’s team placed well in the sprints races Saturday. Redshirt senior hurdler RJ Alowonle impressed by winning the 400 meters hurdle race in a time of 50.33 seconds. In the 200m dash, junior sprinter Brandon Reddick won in a time of 21.65, while redshirt junior sprinter Kwame Donyinah placed first in the 400m with a time of 47.50.

First-year thrower Daniel McArthur performed well in the discus and shot put, placing second and third, respectively. In the pole vault, first-year Bailey Frederick cleared 4.80m to place second. The day’s final event, the 4x400m relay, saw an impressive victory in a time of 3:14.84 from the Tar Heels team consisting of first-year Brandon Cachon, Donyinah, first-year Harrison Young, and Alowonle. However, the depth of the Michigan distance team propelled the Wolverines to victory.

As for the women’s team, the Tar Heel hurdlers, led by junior Natisha Dixon, excelled. Dixon won both the 100m hurdles (13.89) and the 400m hurdles (1:01.73). She was followed in the 400m hurdles by fellow Tar Heels sophomore Kristin Hall, second in 1:01.86, and first-year Tamira Gitonga, third in 1:03.90.

The UNC women’s team also had high finishers in field events. Sophomore Nicole Greene won the high jump by clearing 1.79m, while redshirt senior Sarah Howard won the shot put and placed second in the discus. In the horizontal jumps, junior Alexis Gannon placed fourth in the long jump while junior Janice Ezenwa and first-year Brianna Isles jumped to second- and third-place finishes in the triple jump, respectively.

On the track, sophomore Katlin Sherman won the 200m in a time of 23.87, while first-year sprinter Brianna Duncan placed second in the 100m in her first collegiate race with a time of 11.96. Three Tar Heels closed well in the 400m to place within the top five, with junior Cierra Dunston finishing second en route to a personal best, first-year McKinley McNeill placing fourth, and junior Jewel Christian rounding out the top five. In the middle distance races, sophomore Morgan Ilse set a personal best of 4:25.10 in the 1500m to place third, while first-year Erin Edmundson also finished third in the 800m. Like the men’s team, the women 4x400m relay team of Dixon, Christian, Dunston, and McNeill, earned a first-place finish in a time of 3:42.00.

Who stood out?

Alowonle’s 50.33 time in the 400m is good for second in the NCAA this outdoor season. UNC head coach Harlis Meaders expressed excitement regarding the development of Ilse, who set a personal best in the 1500m on her way to a third-place finish. Meaders was also pleased with the performances of veteran thrower Howard in the shot put and discus as well as Greene, making her outdoor season debut on Saturday, in the high jump.

Why does it matter?

Early season track and field meets often serve as a measuring stick to gauge the collective fitness level of a team. While pleased with the individual performances of athletes such as Dixon, Howard, Greene, and Olowonle, and others, Meaders was disappointed in his team’s overall performance in what he called a “reality check” for the team moving forward. Especially disappointing for the Tar Heels was finishing behind ACC rival Duke on both the men’s and women’s sides.

Where do they compete next?

The majority of the UNC team will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Tennessee Relays on April 7-8, while the multi-athletes will compete in the UGA Multis on April 5-6 later this week in Athens, Georgia.

sports@dailytarheel.com

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