Minimizing the gap between the No. 1 and No. 5 finishers is crucial to the team's performance because the top five finishers account for the team's score.
"We want to be packed as tight as possible," UNC coach Michael Whittlesey said.
Sophomore Terrance McRae cited this style of running for his success on Saturday. McRae finished third overall.
"Running side by side with my teammates somehow makes it a lot easier," McRae said.
Freshman Shalane Flanagan and McRae emerged as the pace setters for the Tar Heels on Saturday. Teams can suffer if the lead runner pulls away from his or her teammates too early.
However, leadership goes beyond simply dominating the field on a particular day.
Women's captains Stephanie Jilcott, Kim Timberlake and Rebecca Walker provide essential leadership for the younger women runners.
"They are tremendous leaders in terms of carrying the team and letting them know how we do things in terms of the Carolina way," Whittlesey said.
On the men's side, a clear No. 1 runner has not emerged. Instead, the men looked to one of their more consistent runners.
Senior captain Nick Iauco finished sixth overall and second for the Tar Heels at the UNC Challenge. Iauco has become a team leader.
"(Nick) leads by example and by voice," Whittlesey said.
An individual runner will inevitably win every race, but the Tar Heels win and lose together as a team.
Said George, "I think the team part of it is what makes cross country so special."
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