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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC cross country teams sweep first three meets of 2022, look ahead to post season

Dylan Sorensen coaches players at the University of North Carolina Cross Country Wolfpack Invite at the Wake Med Cross Country Course in Cary, NC on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey A. Camarati/UNC Athletic Communications.

After placing first in every meet they have raced this season, the UNC cross country teams are looking to carry momentum into the final stretch of the year.

Currently ranked 10th and 11th in their respective coaches' polls, the men's and women's teams have their final meet of the regular season on Oct. 14 with the Nuttycombe Invitational. Soon after, the Tar Heels will compete in the ACC Championship at the end of October and the NCAA Tournament in November.

Although UNC has already competed against some of the top teams in the nation, some of the Tar Heels' hardest challenges lie ahead. 

Brynn Brown, a sophomore on the women's team, said the team needs to maintain a confident attitude and continue to follow its game plan going forward.

“It's fun being the underdogs, and a lot of times confidence for a lot of us is a struggle, but this year everyone has been going out and (head coach Dylan Sorensen) gives us a great plan and we stick to that plan,” Brown said.

In its next meet, UNC will compete against BYU's No. 1 men’s team, and top-ranked N.C. State’s women’s team, amongst other highly-touted competition.

In their first meet of the season at the Charlotte Opener, the Tar Heels took home first place in the women’s 5K and second in the men’s 5K. Sophomore Carlee Hansen ran a team-best 17:25.0, while sophomore Ethan Strand led the men with 14:59.7 to secure those positions. 

Brown has found great success in each of the first three meets. After winning the Coaching Tree Invitational with a 6K time of 20:18.6, she was named ACC Co-performer of the Week and USTFCCCA Division I Women’s Athlete of the Week.

Brown added that she won the race while dealing with illness.

“I really like that race because it showed you can get the job done despite the circumstances, despite how you're feeling," Brown said. "So that was a really cool learning experience for me.”

Fellow sophomore Parker Wolfe has also found success in the early part of the season. His swift 8K time of 23:02.4 at the Paul Short Run set a new course record and secured himself the win, his first of the year.

Wolfe's teammate, junior Patrick Anderson, came in second place and also beat the previous course record. The teammates’ times were separated by two seconds. Wolfe mentioned that the chemistry within the men’s team has been an unexpected but helpful aspect this season. 

This season has also been marked by the relaxing of COVID-19 guidelines. Brown and Wolfe said team events have been easier without having to worry about social distancing and masking guidelines.

“It's kind of a nice thing to kinda be around more people and (have) a little better atmosphere,” Wolfe said. 

With a successful start under his team's belt, Sorensen — now in his third year at UNC — is approaching the remainder of the season with an optimistic outlook. However, he recognizes the tough competition that will challenge the Tar Heels in the coming weeks.

“We want to be at our best so that we can finish as well as possible for the University throughout the rest of the season," Sorensen said. "Our greatest challenges lie ahead of us, no doubt about that.”

@dthsports | 

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