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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC track & field team sees canceled season as a chance to improve

track and field Duke
The UNC track and field team competed against Duke on Saturday, April 6, 2019, in Durham at Duke University.

The North Carolina track and field team was having a record-setting season. 

Despite this being the Tar Heels' first season under director Chris Miltenberg, they excelled. Nearly every meet saw someone, often many people, set new personal or school records. This run of form led them to the ACC Indoor Championships where the team secured two conference titles, setting four school records and 14 personal records. 

Needless to say, UNC had plenty of momentum going into the NCAA Indoor Championships.

Then, due to the widespread impact of COVID-19, all NCAA events in the spring were canceled. Despite obvious disappointment, the team is intent on moving forward and using the circumstance as a chance to prove its mettle.

“This is yet another opportunity for us to define who we’re gonna be and what kind of team we’re gonna be, and what I mean is how we handle adversity and how we handle challenges,” Miltenberg said. “This turns into an opportunity for growth for us.”

Miltenberg, who came to North Carolina after seven years at Stanford, said he wanted to emphasize the lessons that his team could learn during this time of turmoil. Despite the momentum his team had going into the indoor championships, he said they can’t let this setback distract from the team's greater goal: constant growth.

“We really knew that we were ready, and unfortunately we didn’t get that opportunity," Miltenberg said. "But I think you can feel bad about that for a day, and then you have to get up the next day and say ‘Okay, what can we control, what’s in front of us?’"

One of the fears regarding spring sports cancellation was the loss of a year of eligibility, meaning this could be the end of the road for current seniors. However, on March 30, the NCAA voted to allow schools to grant another year of eligibility to all spring sport athletes. 

While UNC has yet to announce its own decision regarding spring sports seniors, younger players are already thinking about how they'll finish their careers.

“I’m planning to take a fifth year and use my eligibility, so I try to look on the bright side,” junior sprinter Anna Keefer said. “I’ve improved every year, so this gives me another opportunity to compete, even though this season I only did the indoor season.”

Meanwhile, Daniel McArthur, a redshirt senior and back-to-back ACC Champion in the shot put, also voiced interest in returning for one more year as a Tar Heel. While he said he was initially shocked and saddened by the decision to not hold the indoor championships, McArthur also said that there was a lot of good that could come out of this time.

“I don’t think this is a 'lightning doesn’t strike twice’ situation,” McArthur said. “I don’t think it’s lightning. I think this was a grain of sand, and there are thousands of other grains of sand. So we’re just gonna take it day by day."

@pjdaman12

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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