Cross country might not seem like a team sport but try telling that to the North Carolina men's cross country squad.
It was a controlled pace set by junior runner Zack Dawson accompanied by an excellent team effort that propelled the Tar Heels to a first-place finish this weekend at the Blue Ridge Open in Boone coach Michael Whittlesey said.
Dawson finished in 24 minutes and 22 seconds good for fourth overall creating positive energy for the runners" who were able to follow his lead.
""Most people think that cross country is an individual sport"" senior Brock Baker said. But you get a ton of energy from the rest of the team.""
Following a 15th-place finish at the Notre Dame Invitational" the men's A team returned with a well-executed effort against a good field that included a trio of other ACC teams — Duke Miami and Clemson.
The difference between that finish and Friday's result was like light and dark" Whittlesey said.
""Last week we came out real quick in the first mile and didn't have enough for the rest of course" he said.
Duke came out in the lead but we took over" and they tried to make a run at us with about two miles left. But we were just too strong.""
Baker also noted the improvement in the Tar Heels' execution this weekend.
""Last race was our first big race. We got too excited in that first mile"" he said. I felt that today we stuck together better and just fed off of each other's energy.""
The win was a great morale booster for a team that Brock said entered the season with lofty goals.
""Last year we felt that we underperformed" and we really didn't want to cheat ourselves this year" he said. Coming in we were looking to finish in the top six of the ACC and really establish ourselves.""
With the win Friday"" this year's team could be looking for much more than a finish in the top half of the conference.
""I felt that today we showed just how good we can be" Brock said. We still have a lot of young guys on the team" and we are just looking to build each week.""
Up next for the Tar Heels are the ACC Championships"" which will be held in Chapel Hill on Nov. 1.
Baker's hope is that the team will come out the same way it did in Boone — ""firing on all cylinders.""
Contact the Sports Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.