The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday April 2nd

SportSaturday - Cross Country Prepares for Postseason Feast

The regular season is not much more than a really long practice for North Carolina men and women's cross country teams.

Practice is finally over on Oct. 28 at the ACC Championship race.

"I look at the regular meets as workouts and confidence builders," freshman standout Shalane Flanagan said. "Our main goal is just to peak at the right time, which is the end of the season."

Most of Flanagan's teammates agreed that regular season races are used not so much for results, but as preparation for postseason competition.

"You mainly want to use regular season for training," senior captain Nick Iauco said. "You want to do well because you want to intimidate other teams and get your name out there, but at the same time you don't want to show all your cards until postseason."

Iauco stepped up his training for his senior season and does not plan on tapering his mileage during practice before any championship races. He said he runs better when he keeps his training consistent.

Most of the team will decrease their practice intensity starting next week. The Tar Heels will not train in the weight room for the duration of the postseason, and they will decrease their training mileage as well.

This will seem like a vacation for UNC's runners after their regular season training schedule.

The team held intense practices two or three times a week during the regular season, even if the Tar Heels were racing that weekend. Coach Michael Whittlesey calls this practice technique training through the meets.

Whittlesey has proven that his training style creates positive results.

Last year, the women's team shaved between 20 to 24 seconds off its times after a month of the less intense practices.

But while the physical pressure on UNC runners might decrease, the mental pressure mounts as the stakes go up.

"There is definitely more emphasis and pressure on conference and districts because that's what counts," sophomore Matt Weiss said. "That's what everyone remembers. If you run well in those races, nothing else matters. And if you run badly in those races, nothing else matters either."

To keep the team focused, Whittlesey discusses strategy with the Tar Heels in the week prior to any big race.

"The mindset of the athlete becomes much tighter during the postseason," Whittlesey said. "They realize that this is what we've been training for all year."

The Tar Heels agree that it all comes down to the postseason competition.

"I think that it doesn't really matter what you do during regular season," Iauco said. "We don't have to worry about things like qualifying for a bowl, like football."

The Tar Heels have one race, the ACC Championships, to earn recognition in their conference. Beyond that, the Tar Heels will focus on placing high enough at the District III Championships in order to qualify for the NCAA Championships in November.

Now is crunch time for North Carolina.

"The regular season is just the appetizer," Weiss said. "You want the main course to be good."


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