For the North Carolina men's and women's cross country programs, a new era is about to begin.
Former Stanford head coach Chris Miltenberg was named the new director of the track and field and cross country programs. He is taking over for Harlis Meaders, whose contract was not renewed at the end of June 2019.
Meaders had been the head coach of the cross country and track teams since 2012. During his tenure, both the men's and women's cross country teams were unable to make major strides toward becoming a top-tier program. This appeared to be enough of a reason for him to be let go, making way for the accomplished Miltenberg.
Miltenberg was the 2011 women's cross country coach of the year after leading Georgetown to an NCAA championship. He has coached Stanford for the past seven years, guiding the team to a fifth place finish at both the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships in his final season with the program.
He is now tasked with transforming the Tar Heels into a contender.
His success should be aided by the return of several of last year’s top finishers for both the men's and women's teams.
The men’s team returns senior Jeremy Brown, who led North Carolina in two of the five races, tied for most on the team. The other was Nick Golebiowski, who finished 36th at the NCAA Southeast Regional as a graduate student in 2018.
Brown had an especially strong showing in last year’s ACC Championships, leading his team with a personal best 8k time of 24:28.1. He finished 31st overall.
On the women’s side, sophomore Enyaeva Michelin looks to improve on her impressive first-year season.
Michelin was the team's top performer in all five competitions. She earned All-Region honors at the NCAA Southeast Regional and was second-team All-ACC after placing 12th at the ACC Championships. She has a personal record 6K time of 20:19.3 in her first year ever running the race.
While the success of North Carolina hinges on Brown and Michelin running at their best, the development of other Tar Heels should be a huge key to improvement.
The men’s team has experienced a lot of internal competition. Despite Brown having the team’s fastest time in two of the five meets, other runners have had great performances of their own to top him.
Runners like redshirt junior Mitch Resor, who ran the team’s fastest time in last year’s opening meet, have had a top-10 finish before. Two more redshirt juniors, Brodie Modini and Alex Milligan, have put up solid enough times to show that they have the potential to crack the top 10.
The women’s team is a different story, but the future is still promising for them.
Michelin has consistently been the team's dominant runner. As a highly-touted recruit, Michelin’s strong times should be expected. However, she alone cannot help the Tar Heels rise up in the overall team standings.
With Miltenberg's guidance, the more experienced roster has the chance to showcase its depth to contend at the top of the ACC. His ability to develop players on both the men's and women's sides of the roster could give the Tar Heels a great chance of continuing the success Miltenberg had at Stanford and Georgetown.
The team's first event under Miltenberg will be on Aug. 30, when the Tar Heels travel to Elon, North Carolina, for the Elon Opener.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.