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They're Going to Disney World for ACCs

Sal Gigante might stand 6-foot-2 and weigh 235 pounds.

He might have broken his own North Carolina record in the hammer throw Saturday with a heave of 202-11.

He might have a name that can strike fear into the heart of a mortal man and that fits his stature and event so perfectly it's uncanny.

But Gigante knows there is one man he could never hope in his wildest dreams of outthrowing: Hercules.

The renowned hero of Greek mythology, whose legend was revived and put to music in a cartoon Disney movie in 1997, was strong enough to kill the Hydra, so he probably could have thrown the discus at least 240 miles (Hercules' great-grandfather, Perseus, threw a discus so hard once that he killed his father; Hercules, therefore, most certainly had the thrower's gene.).

Gigante's discus toss Saturday: 49.28 meters -- or three-hundreths of a mile.

"I definitely think he could beat me," Gigante said.

Indeed. Fortunately for Gigante and the rest of North Carolina's athletes, they'll be competing against other athletes from the conference in this weekend's ACC championships in Orlando, Fla.

No cartoons allowed.

Dubbed SpringFest 2001, eight sports featuring 1,200 athletes and coaches will be on display at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex today until Sunday. Men's and women's competition will be held in golf, lacrosse, tennis and track and field on the complex's 200 acres of land.

"I've seen it driving by," said Gigante, a junior, who will be making his fourth trip to Disney World after visiting during spring break. "Their facilities are amazing. It really does look like an Olympic village."

Free time will probably come at a premium for the Tar Heels this weekend, but most of them wouldn't have it any other way.

"I think on Sunday there'd be time for us to go around the park, but we really don't want to be in that position," UNC No. 1 singles player Marlene Mejia said. "We want to be playing in the finals. That'd be a lot more satisfying for us. Either way it'll be a memorable trip."

Of course it will. Because even if none of UNC's teams leave the Sunshine State with an ACC title, the thrill of being a part of Disney's magic and getting to see Mickey, Minnie, Tigger and the rest of the lovable cast of characters surely will more than make up for the pain and heartache of losing.

Let's look at a few favorites.

Gigante said he likes Beauty and the Beast ("the music and the story"), but his favorite character is Donald Duck.

"I think I like Donald because he's kind of like me -- he's got a bad temper," Gigante said.

Mejia, meanwhile, said Dumbo ranks as her top choice.

"I have this thing for elephants," Mejia said. "I think they're the cutest animals. And I like all the princesses, like Cinderella. I like to live out the fantasy of meeting Prince Charming."

The Disney character that would make the best tennis player, Mejia said: Ursula, the evil octopus from The Little Mermaid.

"I guess she would be the best because she has so many arms," Mejia said. "She would be able to hold lots of rackets."

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Katelyn Hoffman, UNC's freshman lacrosse goalie, will make her own dreams come true this weekend by making her third start of the season.

Favorite characters? Pluto and Gus, the fat mouse from Cinderella.

Character that would make the best lacrosse player?

"I think Goofy because he's tall," Hoffman said.

Ah, yes. Goofy.

The same Goofy who once served as a caddy to one Mickey Mouse in an old Disney cartoon.

Mickey winds up in a very deep sandtrap and after exhausting his supply of clubs, throwing them at Goofy and hitting nearly all the sand out of the trap, he grabs his putter -- the last club left.

He sinks the shot.

"I'm sure if I tried, I'd get it out in like 10 tries," UNC sophomore golfer Ramon Bescansa said. "It's really not the club you want to try it with."

But would he let Goofy be his caddy?

"Definitely," Bescansa said. "Just being a part of Disney would be nice."

He'll get his chance. They all will.

The Sports Editor can be reached at