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Anna Eaton shines for UNC track and field in 2019 season opener

track and field pole vault Anna Eaton
Anna Eaton, senior pole vaulter for UNC, knocks the bar down during the Pole Vault event in the Dick Taylor Carolina Cup at Eddie Smith Field House on Sat., January 12, 2019. Eaton went on to win the Pole Vault with a height of 4.10 meters.

In the first meet of the 2019 track and field season, North Carolina pole vaulter Anna Eaton was happy to be back. Her performance reflected that.

“It felt really good to come in for the first meet and have an indoor PR, especially because last season I had a lot of trouble with a mental block so I just struggled a lot, and it was very frustrating,” Eaton said. “But to come back and do so well the first meet was really exciting.” 

Eaton won the pole vault event with a distance of 4.10 meters, which is the third best mark in school history. She was one of 10 North Carolina track and field athletes that secured ACC Indoor Championships qualifications during competition in the Dick Taylor Carolina Cup in Chapel Hill this weekend. Competing against Duke, Wake Forest and East Carolina, the UNC men placed first and the women placed second.

Eaton's outburst was among a number of promising individual performances in a successful weekend for the Tar Heels. 

“We’ve got a good team, on both the men’s side and the women’s side, so to get some of these preliminary qualifiers done in the first meet was really good,” head coach Harlis Meaders said.

Another Tar Heel who qualified for the ACC Championships was redshirt junior Draven Crist, who won the men’s high jump with a distance of 2.15 meters and set a personal record in the process. 

“It was very nice. I still have a long way to go,” Crist said. “It’s a big mental game.”

Crist and Eaton, while happy with securing early qualifications, both focused on ways they can improve ahead of a long season. Crist emphasized the mentality necessary to do well. 

"Coach helped me prepare the body, but now it's just up to me and my head," Crist said. "All there is, is to jump higher, to show up and to do my job."

Eaton recognizes that she has to work on being consistent and confident in her jumps so that she can make it to the outdoor nationals at the end of the year. To prepare for that goal, Eaton is aiming to transition from using 13.7-foot poles to 14-foot ones, an adjustment that will allow her to improve her jumps.

“I made it my sophomore year, and I got injured my very first jump, so I’d kind of like to redeem that, and go back and compete better,” Eaton said.

Meaders praised Eaton for what he called “the best individual performance of the day.”

After a promising first meet, Meaders is focused on what his team can do to continue improving throughout the season. Crist said the team's youth can be a cause for struggle but ultimately will be a strength.

“This year we should be able to have the potential to do great things, but, yeah, even though it’s a team sport, it’s going to be up to each individual that’s a part of this team,” Crist said.

Young athletes were a big part of UNC’s team performances. Four of the ten ACC qualifiers were true sophomores: Anna Keefer in the long jump, Jill Shippee in the weight-throw event, Isaiah Palmer and Ryan Saint-Germain in the 200-meters, and redshirt sophomore Marcus Krah in the 60-meter hurdles race.

Yet, it was Eaton and Crist who stole the show this weekend with their performances to debut the 2019 season.

"Hopefully by the time we get to the ACC Championships we’re really in our peak,” Meaders said. “So we just try to get a little better each weekend.”

@markburnett1234

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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