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Friday June 18th

Preview: UNC track and field set to keep improving in 2021 season

Jake McEneaney (center), a sophomore distance runner for UNC, tries to pull ahead of a runner from Eastern Carolina during the Men's One Mile Run in the Dick Taylor Carolina Cup at Eddie Smith Field House on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. McEneaney placed eighth in the event with a time of 4:27.67.
Buy Photos Then-sophomore distance runner for UNC,Jake McEneaney (center), tries to pull ahead of a runner from Eastern Carolina during the Men's One Mile Run in the Dick Taylor Carolina Cup at Eddie Smith Field House on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019.

Strong performances by key contributors to the Tar Heels’ success last season helped the North Carolina track and field team in its season-opening meet at the Virginia Tech Invitational on Friday and Saturday. 

Senior thrower Jill Shippee won the women’s weight throw with a distance of 18.88 meters, the fourth-longest throw in UNC history, and senior sprinter Isaiah Palmer won the men’s 60m with a time of 6.77 in the preliminary and final race. Junior thrower Troy Yearwood placed first in the men’s weight throw with a 67-foot throw. 

The women’s team appears primed to improve on its 12th-place finish at the ACC Indoor Championships last season, with 2020 All-ACC performers Anna Keefer and Sydney Banks returning for another year and Shippee returning from a groin injury that hampered her throughout the indoor season last year. 

The women’s team could also get an added boost from a strong class of first-years. First-year distance runner Taryn Parks’ high school personal record 1600m time of 4:37 would have put her among the top-five finishers in last season's mile run at the ACC Indoor Championships. 

The emergence of first-year distance runner Sasha Neglia during the cross country season could benefit the track and field team. Neglia earned ACC Freshman of the Year after finishing sixth at the ACC Cross Country Championships. If Neglia and Parks can carry over their success from their respective events, they could be key contributors for the Tar Heels. 

With few departures from last season’s team, Shippee returning from injury and a talented group of first-years in distance events, the UNC women's team is likely to move up the ACC rankings. 

The men’s team placed fifth in the ACC Indoor Championships last season. Sprinters Qhiyal Towns, Dontavian Smith and Palmer, along with high jump specialist Draven Crist, made significant contributions to UNC’s success last season. All four athletes return this season to lead the Tar Heels. 

They’ll each need to step up in the absence of departing Tar Heels Daniel McArthur, the 2020 ACC Indoor men’s shot put champion, and Ari Cogdell, an important member of the 4x400m relay team that won the ACC Indoor Championships and set a meet record last season. Junior sprinter Onyedikachi Ohia-Enyia, who boasts a 46.71 personal record in the 400m, will likely fill Cogdell’s spot on the 4x400m relay team.

UNC will travel to Virginia Tech three more times throughout the indoor season and to Clemson and Virginia once each before competing in the ACC Indoor Championships at Clemson from Feb. 25 through Feb. 27. 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com   

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