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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC cross country dominates in season-opening meet at Elon

The North Carolina Cross Country team took care of business on Thursday at Elon in its first meet of the year. Both the men’s and women’s teams won the team competition, and Caroline Alcorta took home the first place in the women’s meet.

What Happened?

UNC ran with an abbreviated roster today, choosing to sit out 10 to 11 male runners in favor of rest, but that didn't deter the Tar Heels.

The women’s team ran through the rain to victory, but the weather cleared for the men. Coach Mark Vanalstyne said the rain saved the runners from the heat they otherwise would’ve faced.

Alcorta, a junior, won the meet, and Morgan Ilse, a sophomore, came in second. The other three scoring runners placed 5th, 6th and 9th to seal out the win.

The men’s team rallied behind a pack of three runners — sophomore Nick Walker, redshirt senior Chris Madaffari and first-year Mark Myers — who finished within seconds of each other. The final two in the scoring five finished in 13th and 15th to lock in the UNC victory.

When was it decided?

Alcorta and Ilse lead from the start and held on to finish first and second. The other women in UNC’s top five were not in the front to begin with, but closed the gap to finish in the top nine.

Walker, Madaffari and Myers started in the middle of the group, but they didn't stay there for long. The trio picked off their competition to finish in the top 10 by the race’s end, setting up UNC to win.

Vanalstyne said while he wasn’t focused on winning the meet, he knew the Tar Heels would win about halfway through.

Who stood out?

Junior Carolina Alcorta won the women's race in 13:41. Erin Edmunsen, a first-year, rounded out the top 5 with a 9th place finish at a time of 14:56 in her first collegiate race.

For the men, Walker had an impressive first race as a Tar Heel, finishing fourth with a time of 19:01. Myers finished seconds behind Walker in his first race for UNC.

Why does it matter?

North Carolina closed out last season with a 9th place men's finish and 5th place women's finish in the ACC Cross Country Championships. Coming off of those results, Vanalstyne said it felt good to watch his team win, but he was more concerned with effort.

“I felt really encouraged by the level of effort that I saw out on the course today, particularly in the closes of each race,” he said. “But, we’re going to continue to get stronger, we’re going to add some pieces back, some of our uperclassmen, and expect to be competitive in some of these bigger meets we’re going to.”

While UNC ran well today, the rest of the season will include meets with even stronger talent from across the ACC and the country. Vanalstyne said the Tar Heels need to run faster if they want to stay competitive throughout the rest of the season. The only way to do that is to practice hard.

North Carolina sat out 10-11 men alone for the race today, opting to give them some rest, but the group, including several upperclassmen, will be back on the road for the next meet.

Where do they play next?

The Tar Heels travel to Cary, North Carolina, for the Adidas XC Challenge on September 16.

@ColedelCharco

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