CLEMSON, S.C., - The University of North Carolina track and field teams are leaving Clemson, S.C. with three individual ACC Champions. AJ Hicks was the first Tar Heel to claim a title Friday in the men's weight throw. Annie LeHardy and Isaac Presson both claimed first place in the 3,000-meter run on Saturday. Presson broke his old PR by close to 20 seconds finishing with a blazing 8:15.20. LeHardy's first place time of 9:20.03 beat second place by exactly one second.
The men's team finished the meet in second place totaling 89 points. The women's team finished the meet in seventh place with 49 points.
"It's a fantastic job by our kids," North Carolina head coach Harlis Meaders said. "We brought 14 ladies here and they fought tremendously hard. We're just young on the women's side. I fully expect that they will be a better team next year.
"On the men's side we had the victory in our grasp and it was really close. All of our kids showed up and it was a total team effort. We couldn't have gotten this far without them. Our coaching staff did a tremendous job preparing them. We took one step closer to being a better blue. It's so close; it's within our grasp. We got the right kids and we're on the right path.
"Annie has been great all year. If you watch the webcast in the women's DMR she fought like a champion. Today she came back in the 3k and win it all. The kid is just relentless. I love that kid."
LeHardy won the 3,000 coming from the seeded section where for the first half of the race she was hanging in the middle of the pack. LeHardy shot to the front and never looked back.
"It was awesome and it means a lot," LeHardy said. "Last year I finished fifth in the mile and it was heartbreaking to me. I trained all year and it really means a lot to me to come out here and race against the some of the best and win today. It's awesome to be a part of the better blue. Every contribution I give I hope to bring the other girls with me."
On top of claiming first in the men's 3,000, Presson also placed on the podium in the men's mile. His time of 4:10.46 was good enough to earn a bronze medal and six points toward the men's score.
"It was huge for me - it being my last opportunity," Presson said. "This was probably the best chance we've had at competing for an ACC title. Being able to come back and get 10 points for the team in the 3k means a lot to me. To me getting second place after a tumultuous few years and being able to contribute to the second place team as a senior in my last year was something really special to me."
"Isaac did a tremendous job," Meaders said. "He came back in the 3k and won coming from the slow section. You don't see that every day, but that's him going out in front and running his race. He put the men in the second heat in a tough position and they couldn't answer to what he did."
Hicks captured an ACC Championship yesterday in the men's weight throw, but he wasn't finished competing. Hicks continued his tremendous season with a new PR in the shot put at 57-1 ½ (17.41 meters) and placed fourth in the conference championship. He was named the Field Event MVP after his two great throws in the shot put and weight throw, which totaled 15 team points.
"It was a good weekend for me for sure," Hicks said. "It feels good to get back to winning and putting points on the board for the team. This is the meet where you really need to focus. I feel like I helped the team, and like my other teammates, put our team in the best position to win."
"It was a fantastic job by AJ," Meaders said. "I'm so proud of him. We spent the whole year talking about being a better competitor an being consistent. It really paid off for him today. The kids got a lot of heart and he's done a great job for the program."
Heading into the men's 4x400 - the last event of the day - the Tar Heels ranked third with 81 points trailing Florida State with 90 and Notre Dame with 84. The men's championship was hanging in the balance. Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, UNC, and FSU were all ranked in the top 15 nationally in the event and were all racing in the final heat. On the second leg of the race CJ Ways took the team from third to first on a burst in the second 200. Pittsburgh was able to close the gap in the final two legs to take first, though. The men's 4x400 relay team finished in second place after running 3:10.28. RJ Alowonle, Ceo Ways, Javonte Lipsey and Sean Sutton were the four men who competed in the relay.
Sarah Howard finished in second place in the women's shot to provide eight team points towards the women's score. She threw 54-4 ½ (16.57 meters).
Tristine Johnson reached the podium in the women's triple jump by tying her personal best at 42-3 ½ (12.89 meters). Johnson's bronze medal gave the women's team six points. Keyasia Tibbs places seventh at 40-9 ¾ (12.44 meters).
Ceo Ways came close to medaling in the men's 200, 0.01 seconds to be exact, but his time of 21.40 was good enough for fourth and five points for the men's team.
Devon Carter and Roy Smith both competed in the men's 60-meter hurdles where Carter finished fourth and tied his PR at 7.87. Smith finished sixth at 7.92. Combined the two men gave the men's team eight points.
North Carolina had three men in the final of the 400: RJ Alowonle, Sean Sutton and Javonte Lipsey. They finished 6-7-8 and all ran under 48 seconds. Alowonle set a new PR at 47.37. Sutton crossed the line at 47.39 and Lipsey finished at 47.73.
Cameron Overstreet and Amanda Benninghoff both scored in the women's pole vault to contribute to the team score. Overstreet cleared 13-7 ¼ (4.15 meters) to earn fourth and Benninghoff tied for fifth after clearing 12-11 ½ (3.95 meters) - a new career best for the young freshman.
Lizzy Whelan competed in the women's mile where she placed eighth and gained one team point. She ran the mile in 4:48.58.
Javianne Oliver finished eighth in the women's 60 after running 7.69.
O'Neal Wanliss finished eighth in the men's 800 clocking in at 1:54.78.
Florida State took first place in the men's competition totaling 96 points. North Carolina trailed by just seven points with 89. Notre Dame followed in third with 84. Virginia Tech got a huge boost from the men's pole vault to place fourth with 66 points while Duke took fifth with 63 points.
Florida State also finished first in the women's competition with 96.5 points. Duke took second with 83 and Notre Dame finished with 65. Miami ended in the competition in fourth with 62 points and Virginia Tech rounds out the top five with 52 points. Maryland had 50 in sixth and the Tar Heels were just shy with 49 points.
The NCAA Indoor National Championships will take place in two weeks on March 14 and 15 in Albuquerque, N.M.
Carolina's ALL-ACC Honorees
AJ Hicks - Weight Throw ACC Champion
Annie LeHardy - 3,000 ACC Champion
Isaac Presson - 3,000 ACC Champion, Mile, 3rd
Pat Schellberg - 5,000, 2nd
Sarah Howard - Shot Put, 2nd
Ryan Walling - 5,000, 3rd
Emily Godwin - Pentathlon, 3rd