Miltenberg said that since the athletes have not been able to train and practice in facilities as much since the pandemic, his team is ready for the new season to begin.
“We have been in such a unique role for six months already,” Miltenberg said. “I think our student-athletes are so adaptable and have learned to be grateful for what we do, and not what we can’t do, that I think they’re going to adapt to it really well.”
North Carolina graduate transfer Thomas Ratcliffe — who ran for Stanford under Miltenberg before the coach joined UNC in June 2019 — has the same enthusiasm toward the season as his coach. He's more grateful this year than in seasons past, he said, because of the uniqueness this season brings.
“It’s been a really long time since I’ve raced, and since I think a lot of collegiate athletes have raced, so I think definitely getting back to my passion for running itself and competition (is what I'm looking forward to),” Ratcliffe said. “You sort of lose sight of that when you’re just going about your business during a normal collegiate year, collegiate season, so I think just being excited for racing and (the) opportunity to get better.”
Fifth-year cross country runner Mady Clahane said the opportunity to compete and practice is something she appreciates, as well, given the time off and the uncertainty of the season.
“I think we are approaching these meets and practices like this isn’t something that’s guaranteed, and we’re trying not to take it for granted and just being appreciative of the fact that we get to compete and we get to do what we love," Clahane said.
Although a schedule is in place, the COVID-19 pandemic is still in full force, and it's possible that the entire season will not be played out. Other sports, like the UNC football team, have already experienced mid-season event cancellations.
The women’s cross country team ranked No. 5 in the 2020 ACC preseason poll, while the men's team ranked No. 9, but Miltenberg is determined to build upon the foundation he set last year.
“Forget the times, forget the points, forget that we’re at a region conference whatever. We’re just competing head-to-head against these teams, and that’s what our goal is,” Miltenberg said. “Let’s be the team that loves to compete. Let’s make the most of every chance we get.”
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