The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday January 30th

Track Opener to Serve as Gauge

After preparing the North Carolina track and field team throughout the fall, all Coach Dennis Craddock can do now is wait and watch.

The wait will be up and the watching will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday as UNC hosts the North Carolina College Big 12 Meet at the Eddie Smith Fieldhouse.

And Craddock hopes to see his team's competitive drive on display.

"We've tested our skills with our practices," he said, "Now it's time to see how everyone does in a competition setting."

Especially targeted are jumpers Adam Shunk and Blair Woodward. Shunk finished last year as the NCAA runner-up in the high jump, then broke his foot in the off-season.

"I expect a slow improvement throughout the season," he said. "But this meet I'm not worried about performance as I am about seeing the competition."

Woodward is the ACC's returning indoor long jump champion.

Joining Shunk and Woodward are Richard Allen III, Curtis Fraser and Ryan Therrien, who look to be the standouts from a class of five freshman sprinters.

"I think they're going to be scared at first considering this is the first time wearing the powder blue," Craddock said. "But I trust they will respond well."

The women have fewer question marks, touting strong athletes in all events.

The squad is headlined by returning titleholders in various events. Alice Schmidt will try to defend her NCAA 800-meter title this year and Shalane Flanagan looks to defend her ACC title in the mile and the 3000.

The team also will be fueled by thrower Laura Gerraughty and All-American sprinter Anissa Gainey.

But UNC primarily is focused on the team performances, although the meet will not have an overall team winner.

"Hopefully, even if there is no score, we will still win the meet," Craddock said.

Saturday is a first step for the women, who are eyeing an ACC championship after finishing second in the indoor championships a year ago. The men hope to improve from last year's fifth-place ACC Championships finish.

Shunk said, "This meet is our chance to see where we are and what improvements we're going to have to make over the next weeks of the season."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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