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UNC track finished with 8 top-collegiate finishes at Kent Taylor Invitational

After being sidelined by injury, most athletes would be satisfied with crossing the finish line in their return debut.

But sophomore Ryan Walling, coming back from a shin injury, managed both a first-place finish and an indoor personal record of 4:13.98 in the mile race at the Kent Taylor Invitational at Eddie Smith Field House on Saturday.

Walling suffered the injury in winter training and was kept off the track for 10 days. He returned this weekend for the team’s last meet before the ACC Championships.

“I feel like the race was a bit of a rust buster,” Walling said. “I was able to shake off the cobwebs by getting out there and running fast for the first time in a while.”

For Walling, this weekend’s performance was a chance to better his case for a spot on UNC’s ACC Championships roster.

“Hopefully I’ve done enough to make the ACC team because I think I’ll be able to improve significantly after finally getting my first race in,” Walling said.

In the same race, Walling’s teammate — junior Mike Jacobs — finished second and also recorded a personal record of 4:14.58.

UNC’s athletes made a statement with eight top-collegiate or first-place finishes and seven personal records, which bodes well as the team heads to the conference championships at Virginia Tech from Feb. 21 to 23.

Many athletes who had already been selected for UNC’s conference championship roster did not participate in the meet in preparation for next weekend.

“This was a final chance to get indoor personal bests for those athletes that are closing out their season today,” assistant coach Mark VanAlstyne said. “And then there were one or two opportunities to evaluate if someone was maybe on the fence for making the ACC team.”

Sophomore Cameron Overstreet, who placed first in the women’s pole vault event and is slated to go to the ACC Championships, said she used the meet as a practice run for next weekend.

Overstreet attempted a new personal record Saturday but failed to clear the bar.

“Any day that you have any opportunity to jump a new personal record means you are headed in the right direction,” Overstreet said.

There are high expectations for UNC’s track and field team going into the championships.

Fourteen Tar Heels are ranked in the top five of the ACC in 15 events. The team also boasts three relays ranked in the top five.

Overstreet said her team is excited to challenge its conference foes next weekend.

“The new coaches have prepared us for this weekend since August and given us the mindset of ‘being the better blue,’” Overstreet said. “That is our goal — to show people the new UNC.”

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