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'The guys we're leading with': Five UNC track and field athletes earn All-American honors

North Carolina's director of track and field and cross country program Chris Miltenberg attends the Dick Taylor Carolina Challenge in the Eddie Smith Field House on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey A. Camarati.

After the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships were canceled due to COVID-19, five members of the North Carolina track and field team received All-American honors for the indoor season.

The championship was set to be the last meet for UNC before the outdoor season began. The meet was scheduled to take place on March 13 and 14 but was canceled the day before the Tar Heels were set to compete.

For the five members of the men's team set to compete, shot putter Daniel McArthur and the 4x400 meter relay team of Ryan Saint-Germain, Isaiah Palmer, Brandon Cachon and Ari Cogdell, the cancellation meant they never got the opportunity to prove themselves on one of the track world's biggest stages.

Despite the cancellation, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association recognized qualifying athletes and credited them with All-American honors.

Based on the post-medical scratches start list for the championships, the association gave the following criteria: in individual events, all athletes on the start list for their respective event earned All-American honors; the four student-athletes for a relay who produced the performance declared and accepted into their event also received All-American honors. Alternates or back-ups for relays received no honors.

There was no distinction between first-team and second-team, meaning every athlete received the same All-American honor.

Under normal circumstances, North Carolina head coach Chris Miltenberg said, the 16 teams or athletes for individual events earn the All-American title by default, with the distinction of first- and second-team being determined by placement in the championship events. The top-eight finishers are first-team, and ninth through 16th place receive second-team honors.

Miltenberg said he was excited for his competitors and said the honor of All-American should not be devalued due to the absence of a distinction of first- or second-team. Regardless of the honors, he still felt his team had something to prove and could have walked away as first-team recipients.

“It’s a little bit of what I would say mixed emotions because honestly, had that meet gone off, those guys are first-team All-Americans without a doubt,” Miltenberg said. “It’s the recognition they absolutely deserve, I think for them they know they deserve that, and I think they were hungry to go show, ‘Hey we’re not only happy to be here, we’re top-eight guys.’”

Even in a shortened season, Miltenberg's squad sending five athletes to the NCAA Indoor Championships was a culmination of an impressive season where numerous athletes set personal records and set the program on an upward trajectory.

Miltenberg said the championships would have been an exclamation point on the season, and a steppingstone into an outdoor season that could have seen continued progress.

“As we grow this program, as we plant a flag as to who we want to be on the national level, taking those five guys to that meet ready to go was a big statement,” Miltenberg said. “Coming away with five All-Americans on an indoor season we didn’t get to completely finish is another big statement. We built some great momentum.”

When Miltenberg spoke about the five All-Americans, he described their passion, competitiveness and their desire to improve each day while focusing on an end goal as a few qualities they exemplify for the team.

“I think they just set a great example of all those key things we build on and the core values that we stand for as a team,” Miltenberg said. “Across those five guys, you hit them all there really well, and that’s why they’re the guys we’re leading with.”


@DTHSports |

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