Since 1988, the women have won 10 of 13 conference championships. But the last two years have culminated in a third- and second-place finish -- respectable, but below UNC's standards.
"For the women, really, we're pretty doggone strong in all areas," UNC coach Dennis Craddock said. "I think the depth is back. We want to rule the roost again."
But to reassert their control on the ACC, the women will have to outrun rivals Clemson and Georgia Tech.
Fortunately for the Tar Heels, they're stacked in every event.
Senior sprinter Crystal Cox returns to the team after missing last season for medical reasons. In 1998, Cox finished third in the USA Junior Nationals and holds the fifth-best time in UNC history in the indoor 400-meter run.
"The way she's practicing and running, her outdoor season is going to be tremendous," hurdler Lutisha Shittu said.
But Cox's teammates are just as potent. Shittu is the returning ACC champion in the 100-meter hurdles, and senior Joy Ganes is a former conference champion and All-American in the high jump.
"I think we already have (a shot at winning the ACC)," long jumper Lashawn Gee said. "We have new freshmen that are really sensational."
Freshmen sprinters and hurdlers Tiffany Flomo, Anissa Gainey, Nneka Martin and Summer Knowles have already caught the eye of their ACC foes.