Cross country coach Michael Whittlesey wondered if confidence was the undoing of his men's team after a disappointing eighth-place finish Saturday in Chapel Hill.
""We felt like we were good" he said. And we forgot how we got there" which was really putting it to the race and not letting the race come to us.""
Despite an emphasis on confidence leading up to the championships" the eighth-place finish was hardly the result he said he was hoping for.
Instead he saw arch-rival Duke race with the attitude he expected from his runners after losing to UNC at the Mountaineer Open on Oct. 17 in Boone" N.C.
""Probably the worst thing that happened for us and the best thing that happened for Duke was that we beat them (at the Open)" he said. You could see in their faces today that they wanted it today. At Boone" it was the opposite.""
The Tar Heels' showing at the ACC Championships hardly mirrored that at the Mountaineer Open. There" North Carolina turned in one of its finest performances with two top-10 finishes and six runners finishing 25th or higher.
On Saturday the first Tar Heel to cross the line was senior Brock Baker" who finished 30th.
Baker recorded a personal best time of 25:29.8 in his final race on his home course.
He said Saturday was a culmination of the 100- and 110-mile weeks he ran during the summer.
""I feel really excited"" Baker said of his race. It means a lot to me as a senior to go out and have a good race that I can feel positive about.""
Baker was followed by redshirt freshman Adam Cunningham and UCLA transfer Evan Watchempino" who finished 34th and 35th respectively — so four of the Tar Heels' top five finishers did not even compete at the meet last year.
For Cunningham who was forced to redshirt last year when an inflammation in the tissue in his shin ended his season after two races" crossing the finish line was actually a sweet feeling.
""It's hard to describe how frustrating it is to be sitting on the side watching these guys"" he said. It's really great to be out here with the guys being a part of the team. It's really an incredible feeling.
""Sometimes I can't even believe it when we're traveling to hotels"" he said. It's an amazing thing to be part of this team.""
Whittlesey said the newcomers continue to bring stability and hunger to the team. And he said the team will need that type of hunger to improve on Saturday's performance for the NCAA Southeast Regional on Nov. 15.
""(We have to) remember what our mind-set was at the Appalachian State meet" he said. And if we bring it from that standpoint" we're going to be hungry again.""
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