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Wolfe, Phillip lead men's cross country to top-3 finish at Virginia Invitational


Then first-year Parker Wolfe finishes first overall in a 6000-meter race, running a 17:48.0 Sept. 26, 2021 at North Carolina State University.
Photo Courtesy of NC State Athletics.

The UNC cross country team "went right into the fire" at the Virginia Invitational in Charlottesville last weekend. At least, that’s how Chris Miltenberg, director of track and field and cross country, described it.

After a successful showing at the Charlotte Invitational earlier this month, which saw 11 athletes place in the top 10 in their respective events, the Tar Heels' results in Charlottesville on Saturday were a different story.

"You had some of the very, very best teams in the country on a course where the national championship will be," Miltenberg said. "So this was probably the most competitive early season meet in the country."

After a first-place finish for both teams at the Charlotte Invitational, the Tar Heels placed third in the men's event and 11th in the women's at the Virginia Invitational. UNC only had two top-10 finishes in the men's event, and no top-25 placements in the women's race. 

But, despite the different results, two consistent runners have emerged for North Carolina's No. 5 men's cross country team: junior Parker Wolfe and graduate student Alex Phillip.

In his last few seasons as a Tar Heel, Wolfe solidified himself as one of the country's top runners. The 2022 ACC Men's Cross Country Athlete of the Year finished ninth in last year's NCAA Championships — the best placement for a UNC men's individual since 1956.

At the Virginia Invitational, Wolfe finished in second place, just behind Northern Arizona's Drew Bosley and ahead of Stanford's Ky Robinson. Both Bosley and Robinson placed in the top 10 of the national championship last year.

By proving that he is able to contend with the top runners in the country, Wolfe is likely setting himself up for another dominant season as a Tar Heel, and he says he hopes to see some first-place finishes soon. 

"I'm definitely pleased with how things went," Wolfe said. "It's nice getting out there and being able to place in the top three in the last two [invitationals], but we're building towards something bigger and definitely want to go win soon."

He added that moving forward, a team effort will be integral to placing high at the Nuttycombe Invitational in Wisconsin, as well as the subsequent ACC Championships.

Phillip’s situation is different from Wolfe's. After earning the 2021 and 2022 NCAA Division III National Championship titles at John Carroll University, Phillip transferred to North Carolina for the 2023 season. Even with the elevated level of competition, Phillip placed fifth and eighth in the Charlotte and Virginia Invitationals, respectively.

Although there have only been two meets, Phillip has already proven himself as a valuable individual runner and team contributor. 

“It’s been a very different environment,” Phillip said. “I love the professionalism of the group and all the hard work they’re willing to put in every day. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m enjoying every second of it.”

While Miltenberg expressed that many elements of the 2023 season are a work in progress, Phillip has emerged as a cornerstone alongside Wolfe. And as UNC gears up for three more meets before the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships in November, it's clear that the Tar Heels will turn to their two veteran runners.

"Obviously, we've got a lot of work to do between now and the end of the season," Phillip said. "But that's what coach [Miltenberg] preaches, is building blocks each week."


@dthsports |

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