CARY — It wasn’t really even that important of a race — it’s early in the season, a kilometer shorter than a typical race and the team didn’t taper down or spend months mentally preparing for it.
But it was Stella Radford’s first cross country race in America. The Australian sophomore transfer finished first for the North Carolina women's cross country teams at the Adidas XC Challenge, taking 13th place.
“It was massive. Just the field and everything,” Radford said. “But I didn’t want pressure for this race because it’s just like one for fun.”
The Tar Heels competed in 5-kilometer races at the Adidas XC Challenge on Friday evening at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. Women usually race 6-kilometer races and men usuallyrace 8-kilometer races, so the 5-kilometer races were a chance for the teams to test their speed in a less-competitive environment. The team did not race all of its top runners.
The women’s team finished fourth out of 18 teams, while the men placed second to N.C. State in a field of 11 teams.
Senior Stephen Mulherin finished third overall in the race, but placed first as the two runners ahead of him were running unattached and their points could not count toward team scores.
“I was competitive the whole time, which was cool. It was a good mental effort,” Mulherin said. “But you know I got third so that’s a bummer. But it’s super early, so also not a bummer.”
Three other Tar Heels also finished in the top 15, but it was not enough to edge out N.C. State, which finished with six runners in the top 15.
“We were happy with what we saw today,” Coach Mark VanAlstyne said of both teams. “It’s just another opportunity to get some racing experience for the young athletes, and for the returning athletes it’s just another opportunity for them to re-learn how to hurt.”
“I was out west, so you know you’ve gotta have the facial hair out there. So this was from the beginning of the summer; I didn’t just grow it. But I’m not cutting this thing off because it’s intimidating everyone. I had like five people telling me I had a nice beard mid-race. I want to keep it for the whole season.” — Mulherin on his beard.
This race was the fastest most of the team had run all season, especially on the men’s side, as it was their first complete race after the previous one was canceled halfway through because of weather. VanAlstyne said he was impressed by the speed he saw, especially in Mulherin, who he said had looked strong in workouts but not always fast.
UNC will run at the Princeton Invitational on Oct. 3 in Princeton, N.J., for the first time in the team’s history.
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