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The Daily Tar Heel

Eight Tar Heels qualify for track and field championships

The thunder may have been loud in Jacksonville, Fla. this weekend, but excuses were not to be heard. 

“Sunny days, rainy days, cold days, hot days, you can run fast,” said sophomore sprinter R.J. Alowonle. “Every day you are blessed with the opportunity to race so, I just take every race for what it is and try and do my best.” 

The North Carolina track and field team, which consisted of 26 NCAA East Preliminary qualifying constants, traveled 452 miles to put its year of hard work to the test this weekend in an attempt to qualify for the national championships in Eugene, Ore.

Of the 26 qualifiers, three days of competition revealed the outstanding talent of eight Tar Heels who will be competing with the best track athletes in the nation in June. 

“You always hope for more, but we have eight individuals that qualified for the championships,” said coach Harlis Meaders. “Last year we advanced five, so I think this is a stronger group and I think our chances of scoring points in Eugene at the finals are really good.”

Qualifying during this weekend’s meet were Alowonle and Javonte Lipsey in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, Sarah Howard in the women’s shot put, Xenia Rahn in the heptathlon, Lizzy Whelan in the women’s 1,500, Isaac Presson in the men’s 5,000 and the men’s 4x400 relay team consisting of Alowonle, Lipsey, Kwame Donyinah and Ceo Ways.

After a tough ending to the regional meet in 2013, Alowonle was ready to shine. 

He said last year he thought he was prepared for the meet, but didn’t preform like he should have on the second day. He finished one place behind national qualification in the men’s 400-meter hurdles. 

“I knew from that day I wasn’t going to let it happen again,” Alowonle said. 

He didn’t.

Alowonle finished first overall in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, with a huge smile and a new personal record of 50.11. 

“I was just so, so happy,” he said. “It was unbelievable.”

Not only was Alowonle pleased with his performance, but the coaching staff was as well. 

“He had a lot to prove and I was excited to see him advance to Eugene,” coach Meaders said. “He’s put in a lot of work.”

A short 1.31 seconds behind Alowonle trailed Lipsey. Alowonle said he’s lucky to have a teammate that is so good to practice and challenge himself against throughout the season. 

“Naturally we’re both competitive and we both want to win,” he said. “So, I’m lucky every single day just having someone like that at practice – having someone top in the nation that’s running right next to you.”

Sarah Howard, who finished ninth in the women’s shot put, said she is looking forward to the opportunity to compete in the national championships and has high expectations. 

“It’s definitely always a goal to get on the podium, to be top eight and first-team All-American,” Howard said. ”But I always just go out there and throw as far as I possibly can."

With the national championships beginning June 11, Meaders said his responsibility is to make sure his team is prepared.

“Our hard work has been done,” Meaders said. “Our goal is to rest up, be healthy and put our kids in the best position we can in Eugene to represent the University.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com. 

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