At Saturday’s Kent Taylor-Joe Hilton Invitational, the North Carolina track and field teams battled with some of the top teams from across the country.
But for every team in Chapel Hill this weekend, the biggest competitor turned out to be Mother Nature.
Severe weather and strong winds wreaked havoc at Saturday’s event, causing several stoppages and sending some of the events indoors. Despite Mother Nature’s best efforts, the Tar Heels were able to avoid the rain puddles and claim seven victories during the day.
“Anytime you have a lot of delays like that it really messes up your concentration and focus,” UNC coach Dennis Craddock said. “It is hard to get all warmed up and ready to go and all of a sudden there is an hour delay and you have to sit back down. Fortunately our team did a good job handling that today.”
When the rain and the wind arrived around 2:30 p.m., the meet was postponed for more than an hour so the storm could pass through. During that time, some events were pushed inside to the Eddie Smith Field House.
But the change of venue made no difference to senior Parker Smith, who won the men’s pole vault with a jump of 17-4 1/2.
“Normally I prefer jumping outside, but our coach had been checking the weather so I was expecting and prepared to jump inside,” Smith said. “Today I could focus strictly on my jumping and not the elements since it was inside, so that helped me zone in and jump better.”
Most field events were completed before the mid-afternoon storm arrived, and the field events that were affected by rain were finished inside. The rain delayed the outdoor track events for more than an hour.
“There was water everywhere,” said junior Malai Walker. “The track was completely flooded. Even after they tried to dry the track there were still puddles everywhere.”
Despite the poor conditions, Walker and other Tar Heel runners had little problem conquering the wet track. The UNC women’s 400-meter relay team claimed victory in 46.33 seconds, followed by Walker’s win in the women’s 100 in 11.90 seconds.
“With the rain delay I ended up warming up a long time before I actually ran,” Walker said. “It wore me down a little bit. I was a little more fatigued than I would be normally.”
UNC was one of three ACC teams that competed in the Kent Taylor-Joe Hilton Invitational as teams across the conference prepare for next week’s ACC Outdoor Championships at Duke University.
Despite Saturday’s weather frustrations, UNC will head to Durham on the heels of a successful meet.
“All of the things you do all year set the stage to be able to win a championship,” Craddock said. “I think after this season and this weekend we are in good shape and we are ready to go compete for an ACC Championship.”
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