Though Tropical Storm Hanna left its mark on the North Carolina cross country team's schedule" the Tar Heels looked no worse for wear during their season opener this weekend.
The teams were forced to abandon last week's scheduled opener at the Campbell Invitational due to the devastating potential of a surprise competitor — Mother Nature.
But the team was not exactly upset to hear the news.
""I was actually kind of glad"" junior Lauren Holesh said. It's awful to run in terrible conditions.
""It's probably a good thing that it was cancelled.""
The team used the extra preparation to help turn in an impressive performance Saturday at the UNC Challenge as both the men and women's teams took titles.
""We were actually going to sit out our top runners (at Campbell)"" coach Michael Whittlesey said. There was no missed preparation.""
The men dominated the meet by finishing in the top seven spots" with five Tar Heels scoring in the process.
UCLA transfer Evan Watchempino headed the UNC sweep with an 8K time of 25:50.32 in his first performance for UNC.
The newcomer who Whittlesey said has been flashing his potential in practice" had to overcome his own anxieties to get his first win in college competition.
""I was nervous at first" he said. But at three miles in" I just kind of let loose.""
Watchempino was followed by redshirt freshman Adam Cunningham"" another of the multiple young runners to contribute.
""It's great to have the youth there" Whittlesey said. Not only do we have a great chance to have a great year this year" but we have a chance to be strong for the next couple of years.""
Junior Zack Dawson was the next Tar Heel to cross the stripe before seniors Jeremy Cramer and Brock Baker closed out the scoring for the team.
But the women were involved in a much closer race" with Holesh leading the way with a time of 18:05.00 in the 5K.
She was not followed by a brigade of Tar Heels as Watchempino was. She watched Wake Forest claim second third and fourth before senior Morgan Stengel was able to put up points for UNC with a fifth-place finish.
Stengel was followed by UNC first-year Ashley Verplank" who clocked in at 19:07.00.
An eighth-place finish by Courtlin LaReau and Becky Johnson's 12th-place finish propelled the women to the win.
Holesh said she was impressed with the way the team performed as every Tar Heel that competed was able to score.
""We have several injured people"" she said. (The performance) is a testament to how hard people worked over the summer and the support we have from people who can't run.""
Both teams once again will have an extended rest as neither will compete again until the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 3.
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