This meet was simply a tune-up, or so thought the North Carolina track and field team when it stepped into Eddie Smith Field House on Saturday afternoon.
The Carolina Cup is one of only two home meets for North Carolina this spring season, and UNC hosted Duke, N.C. State and East Carolina for the day.
Considering it was the first meet of the new year, many of UNC’s top performers came into the day just looking to shake the rust off.
“Training has been really good," head coach Harlis Meaders said. "I think the team itself throughout the fall has been really united. The coaching staff has done a great job of raising expectations and the kids have really bought into that."
But the Tar Heels were not there to play around. North Carolina had 12 first-place finishers in 28 events — seven in women’s and five in men’s. Both the women’s and men's teams ran away with first place on the day, totaling 49 and 60 points, respectively.
For much of the day it was simply domination, in a variety of events. Marcus Krah ran in his first collegiate race and posted a top-15 time in the country for the 60-meter hurdles. The redshirt first-year was a junior world champion, but this was his first opportunity to get out on the track and compete as a Tar Heel.
“It felt great," Krah said. "It was in front of the new coach, in front of the team, and in front of my closest friends and my family. My mom and dad came. I can’t remember the last time they came to a meet … It really meant a lot to me."
Brianna Duncan set a school record in the 60-meter dash — twice. The sophomore notched a 7.29-second time and took first place in the event.
North Carolina swept the competition in two events, finishing in first, second and third place in men’s triple jump and the women’s mile.
Perhaps the most anticipated event came with Nicole Greene in the women’s high jump. The junior was a preseason All-American after earning first-team honors last season. She jumped 6 feet and 1.5 inches in the indoor national championships to finish fifth in 2017.
Greene had to wait her turn, however. She didn’t have a set time to jump, for multiple reasons. The women’s high jump didn’t have a start; it was simply schedule for after the men’s. Plus, her qualifying jump height was the highest of the field, so she had to wait for everyone else to go first.
Once it was finally her time, she didn’t want to know the height of the bar. Time after time she cleared the bar, but her coach wouldn’t tell her the height. So when she lined up to attempt her personal record and highest jump in the country, she didn’t even know.
As she does every time, she slapped her thighs, planted her leg into the ground three separate times and took off. With long gathering strides, she approached the bar, cleared 6 feet and 2 inches and landed on the mat with an eruption from the crowd. Her position coach, Nicole Hudson, was yelling and dancing even more than Greene before the two wrapped their arms around each other.
Hudson, who graduated UNC in 1992, was the first female athlete to jump six feet at the school. She says she still remembers when she jumped off the mat and ran to her coach when she was an athlete in the same position as Greene.
“It’s kind of like the circle of life, the whole Mufasa thing,” Hudson said with a chuckle. “Now I get (to be) the one watching her get off the mat and hug me.”
Greene said that this early success has gotten her pumped for the rest of the season.
“I said big things were coming, but I didn’t think it would be so soon,” she said.
There couldn’t have been a much better start to the season for these two teams. There are plenty of meets left, but it's clear many Tar Heels are already ahead of schedule.