After joining UNC in 2019 as an assistant coach for distance events, Dylan Sorensen has been promoted to head coach of the women’s cross-country team.
Director of cross-country and track and field Chris Miltenberg announced Sorensen’s promotion last week, though Miltenberg said he has seen Sorenson’s potential from the beginning.
Miltenberg brought Sorensen to Stanford as an assistant coach back when Miltenberg was the director of cross-country and track and field there. Miltenberg hired Sorensen at Stanford with little coaching experience — prior to coaching at Stanford, Sorensen ran collegiately at Georgetown University before competing and becoming one of the country’s best triathletes. However, since then he has quickly established himself as one of the top coaches in the nation, which demonstrates the talent that Miltenberg says he had always seen.
“I think so often in coaching it’s easy to get caught up in the training and races, but really this is about connecting with people and that is Dylan’s greatest asset,” Miltenberg said. "I hired him right out of being a pro athlete back when I was at Stanford, because even though he didn’t have any coaching experience yet I knew he was going to be great because of his ability to communicate and connect with people really well.”
Since Miltenberg and Sorensen arrived at North Carolina, their results have quickly backed up their people-first philosophy. Last year, Sorensen helped lead the women’s cross-country team to make the 2020 season their most successful in more than a decade. The team made its first NCAA championships appearance since 2014, finishing 14th.
Miltenberg credited the team’s national success to Sorensen’s trust and relationship building.
“I think a big reason we were so successful this year is because we continue to believe we belong,” he said. “Dylan does such a great job of building relationships and building trust and with his coaching, our athletes believe in what we do and they believe in themselves and that’s the most important thing when you stand on the starting line."
The team also benefited from impressive performances from its first-years — underscoring Miltenberg and Sorensen’s strong recruiting efforts. First-years Sasha Neglia and Kelsey Harrington both finished in the top 65 in the NCAA championships, among the top four in their class.
Neglia was recruited by Sorensen to come to UNC over Stanford, and she noted the strength of the coaches at UNC in explaining her choice.
“The coaches were definitely a big part in why I chose UNC, and I really love the supportive atmosphere across all of the sports,” Neglia said.
After winning her first race at the Virginia invite last September, Neglia cemented herself as a talented competitor and went on to be named ACC Freshman of the year, UNC’s first since 2014.
Neglia’s success was no surprise to Sorensen, though, who emphasized recruiting as one of the key components he has worked on since his first day at UNC.
“We have worked hard to identify the right people for North Carolina who are going to thrive here and who want to be the best in the country,” Sorensen said. “I think we’ve done a fantastic job of identifying people that we know are of the highest character and that ultimately want to represent the university at the highest level out on the cross-country course and track but who also have big goals in the classroom.”
Sorensen’s recruiting efforts are already paying off as UNC’s women’s cross-country team has one of the best incoming recruiting classes in the country.
Though his recruiting efforts are strong, it may be his coaching philosophy that ultimately sells students on the UNC running programs. It's clear that the women’s cross-country team has bought into Sorensen’s philosophy and is excited to work with him in the future.
“He is very organized and really competitive and encourages all of us to be competitive. You can just tell that he really cares about everyone on the team not just as a runner, but as a person in general,” Neglia said.
Sorensen’s successful journey hasn’t just come from Miltenberg’s belief in him, his recruiting approach, or the team’s love for his philosophy — he too loves being in Chapel Hill and all that UNC stands for.
“The biggest thing I have experienced here, and the reason why I came, is because people here are so happy to be at the University of North Carolina," he said. "They’re proud to be here and they’re proud to represent the athletic department. When you look around here, everyone has high goal for themselves."