The North Carolina men’s cross country team finished first in the Paul Short Run at Lehigh University on Friday morning.
In the Men’s College Gold 8k race, first-year Parker Wolfe was the first Tar Heel to cross the finish line with a fifth-place time of 23:38.9. Seconds later, multiple Tar Heel racers followed suit. Senior Jack Aho finished eighth, followed by junior John Tatter in 10th, first-year Will Coogan in 14th and sophomore Marshall Williamson in 19th. These racers secured the winning score for UNC with a total of 56 points.
It was a narrow win, with second place Villanova scoring one point more.
The remaining Tar Heels finished a little after 24 minutes with first-year Ethan Strand coming in 43rd, junior Jesse Hunt in 46th and first-year Michael Spragley in 75th.
Three first-years competed in the Open Men’s 8k race to open the meet. Andrew Lauer led the young group, finishing 28th with a time of 25:30.1. Jason Thompson finished right behind at 36th, and Tommy Gaffey wrapped up the race for UNC in 57th place with a time of 25:47.4.
Who stood out?
First-years Wolfe and Coogan made significant contributions to the Tar Heels’ victory. Wolfe, the 2020-21 Gatorade National Player of the Year for cross country, has been consistent in leading the team to first place, coming in first in the entire race at the Adidas XC Challenge and being the first Tar Heel to finish the race on Friday. Coogan has often found himself among the scoring runners as well, proving the UNC cross country program is in good hands moving forward.
Aho, Tatter, and Williamson were also standouts for the Tar Heels as they took the role of veteran leadership among the scorers.
When was it decided?
The race came down to the wire between UNC and Villanova. Villanova had a strong first four racers that put them at the advantage over the Tar Heels; however, the race was decided when Williamson finished ten places ahead of Villanova’s last scorer, giving UNC the slight edge.
Outside of these two teams, the race was not a close competition as the next closest to UNC was Princeton, with a score of 74.
Why does it matter?
For the men’s team, this win continues their streak of first-place finishes which now stands at three. This is the men’s team’s best start in a long time, as this many first-places in one season has not been common in the program’s recent history.
The Tar Heels have positioned themselves among the best teams in the country, as the National Coaches’ Poll from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association has them ranked at No. 23 in the nation. Their southeast regional ranking is three, behind Wake Forest and Furman.
The up and coming UNC squad has one more test before the ACC championship in late October. From how the season has gone so far, things are looking hopeful down the stretch as long as the leaders stay consistent on being at the top of the results.
When do they play next?
The North Carolina men’s cross country team will race again on Oct. 15 in Madison, Wisconsin for the Nuttycombe Invitational. The race will begin at 11 a.m.
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