Fresh off the blocks in his first 60-meter dash, North Carolina’s Zach Brown was hoping to make his transition from outside linebacker on the football team to sprinter a smooth one.
And then he tripped.
But Brown didn’t let the change in stride stop him. The 230-pound sprinter powered through the stumble to win first-place in 6.73 seconds at Saturday’s Kent Taylor UNC Classic in Chapel Hill.
“All the guys from the football team, a good 30, were out there,” Brown said. “I knew they were going to clown me if I had lost. So I was like ‘I gotta win. I gotta get out. I gotta get out.’”
Brown was the first of four football players to make an appearance in a track and field meet after practicing only two times with the team.
“I was just like, ‘Coach, put me in the meet this weekend, man! I’m ready, trust me, I’m ready. I know I’m fast. I’m going to get out there. I’m going to win, baby. I’m ready,’” Brown said.
Two freshmen, running back Hunter Furr and defensive back Curtis Campbell, will both be competing in indoor events next weekend at the Dick Taylor Carolina Classic, while freshman wide receiver Jheranie Boyd is waiting until outdoor season to make his start, Brown said.
“All of them ran in high school,” coach Dennis Craddock said. “They’re very much track-oriented, and I think the 60 (meter dash) will suit their figures better because it’s so short. Right now, coming off football, they’re not in really great shape, but they’re in shape enough to run a couple of good 60s.”
N.C. State was the only other ACC team present at Saturday’s Classic. The majority of the team’s most experienced athletes rested up for next weekend’s more demanding two-day meet and did not compete.
Sophomore Kwabena Keene had a standout performance in the shot put, throwing 17.53 meters for a first-place finish — a length well over his personal best of 16.84 meters.
“We all trained really hard for the meet,” Keene said. “Seeing success this early in the season is a step in the right direction. In high school I did a different technique than I do now, so last year was a rebuilding year for me. We’re all trying to make it to Nationals.”
For the distance team, assistant coach Peter Watson had his runners racing longer events before moving them down into their respective events, Craddock said. Senior Evan Watchempino clocked in at 8:28.33 in the 3,000-meter for a second-place finish.
While all of the women’s team’s sprinters were resting, freshman Lea Anna Godwin took third in the 800-meter at 2:18.04.
Brown and Keene marked the only first-place finishes for the Tar Heels, but Craddock remains hopeful for the rest of the season.
“I think sometimes coaches and athletes begin to want to win so much that you start seeing things that aren’t really there,” Craddock said.
“Realistically, with our men and women, we’ve got enough talent to get back to winning some championships like we’ve done in the past. I think we’re good enough to be in the top 10 of the NCAA.”
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