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Thursday December 8th

UNC cross country teams finish second and third at Wolfpack Invitational

<p>First-year Sasha Neglia runs during the Wolfpack Invite in Cary, N.C. on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey A. Camarati.&nbsp;</p>
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First-year Sasha Neglia runs during the Wolfpack Invite in Cary, N.C. on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey A. Camarati. 

The North Carolina cross country team traveled to the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina on Wednesday to run against N.C. State, Virginia, and Duke in the Wolfpack Invitational. The men's team finished third and the women's team finished second.

What happened?

Challenged by some of the strongest teams in the ACC, the UNC cross country teams held its own.

The men’s team's performance in the 8k was led by first-year Will Coogan with an impressive time of 24:09.6, a near 15-second improvement from his opening race of the season. First-year Max DiMuccio claimed UNC’s second spot and 13th place overall with a time of 24:19.5. Junior John Tatter was not far behind, coming in at 19th place with a time of 24:37.9. Sophomore Marshall Williamson finished next with the time of 24:44.0 and 23rd place. Rounding out UNC's scorers in the men’s race were first-year Michael Spragley coming in 31st with a 26:00.1 and junior Ryan Combs who came in 36th with at 27:36.6.

The first Tar Heel to cross the finish line for the women’s team was first-year Sasha Neglia, whose 5k time of 17:29.5 won her a third place finish, breaking up N.C. State’s sweep of the top four. Senior Emmeline Fisher finished four places behind at seventh with a time of 17:40.5. Following them, first-years Kelsey Harrington and Taryn Parks and fifth-year senior Mady Clahane obtained spots 12-14, with times of 17:52.7, 17:55.8 and 17:58.0, respectively. First-year Sarah Trainor was next, coming in 23rd place with a time of 18:42.5. Junior Camryn Petit finished up scoring points for the team in 29th place with a time of 19:12.0.

The men’s team finished with 79 points, behind Virginia and N.C. State, respectively, and the women’s team finished with 49 points to finish second as a team behind N.C. State.

Who stood out?

Both teams had outstanding races given the warm temperature, 88 percent humidity and stiff competition. First-years Coogan and Neglia both had outstanding performances and were both around 10 seconds ahead of the second-place finishers for North Carolina. Fisher also had a great race, finishing tight behind Neglia and continuing to impress in her final season. Lastly, first-year DiMuccio, who finished behind Coogan, had a near 30-second improvement from the season opener, and contributed to the team’s low score.

When was it decided?

For the men’s division, N.C. State and Virginia finished neck-and-neck with average times of 23:56.48 and 23:54.48, leaving North Carolina’s third place average time of 24:46.22 far behind. For the women’s teams, N.C. State’s average time of 17:25.00 defeated UNC’s time of 17:47.30, with the Wolfpack scoring nearly half as many points as the Tar Heels, finishing with just 24. 

Why does it matter?

Assistant coach Dylan Sorensen pointed out the Tar Heels have had a tough schedule this year competing against some of the fastest schools in the ACC.

“The ACC conference is extremely competitive in cross country right now, particularly the schools that are near us geographically. In this new COVID season, that’s who we’re competing against,” Sorensen said.

Despite these small meets, tough competition, and abbreviated season overall, Sorensen said he happy with the direction the team is going.  

“Nobody’s ever been asked to wear a mask when they are warming up, or had to go to a specific porta-potty that only your team is allowed to go into," Sorensen said. "Every single part of it is different, and that is one of the most fun microcosms of this new uncharted territory that we are living in with COVID."

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will race again on Oct. 16 in Kernersville, North Carolina against Wake Forest and N.C. State before returning to Cary for the ACC Championship on Oct. 30.

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