SOUTH BEND, IND. - Coming out of the gates with 11 new personal best finishes, the University of North Carolina cross country teams showed individual perseverance in fields vetted with nationally ranked contenders ultimately seeing the Tar Heel women take seventh and the men 11th.
"Individually we had some outstanding performances. Team wise we are where we were coming in," said head coach Mark VanAlstyne after the meet. "We're still right on the bubble of the national rankings but we had some opportunities to beat some of the ranked teams."
Of those numerous personal records, Lianne Farber lead the Carolina women with her second 17:00 5K of the season and a 14th-place finish. Kylie McCoy and Ashley Miess blew their previous personal bests away by nearly a minute each, with McCoy finishing in 25th at 17:12 and Miess in 44th at 17:25. Annie LeHardy couldn't quite match her high performance from two weeks ago, still managing to contribute to the Tar Heels' team finish with her 46th-place 17:26.
"On the women's side, I felt like Lianne was solid," said Coach VanAlstyne. "Kylie had a fantastic day and she really came out charging through the field really running well for us. And Ashley had a huge PR. On the surface is you look at it, the one to four ladies were solid."
Personal records in the 5K also came for Sami Jorgensen (72nd, 17:39), Karley Rempel (87th, 17:51), Malia Cali (92nd, 17:56), and Emma Norman (108th, 18:08). Mariana Lucena competed in her first race of the season, running in 18:03 to finish 101st in the field of 145 runners.
The women's team faced four top-30 ranked opponents, all of which placed in the top four at the meet. No. 2 Florida State took home first place, host No. 20 Notre Dame placed second, No. 19 New Mexico placed third and No. 25 NC State placed fourth.
In his first race of 2012, Patrick Schellberg blazed through the field to a personal best of 24:12, taking 21 seconds off his former top 8K time to finish 21st in a field of 163. The two and three runners for the Tar Heels also earned PRs, Jack Driggs with his 40th-place 24:25 and Ryan Walling at 53rd in 24:32.
"I can't say enough about Pat - he has literally been running less than two weeks and his mileage is probably only 60- to 70-percent of his deep mileage," said Coach VanAlstyne, "Pat had a fantastic day and looked good, so I think the next couple of weeks will be really fun to watch him progress.
"Jack had a huge breakthrough along with his PR," Coach VanAlstyne added, "He doesn't feel like it was a great effort on his part, that he could have been more aggressive and gotten closer to 24:00 flat, which is a great attitude for him to have and I agree with him. Now Ryan has been battling an illness for a while, but his PR performance was a great outing for him and I was really encouraged by that."
Despite battling a nagging injury, Isaac Presson came through for the Tar Heels, running his 8K in 24:36 to finish 60th. Mark Derrick earned a personal best of 24:48 to place 80th. Carolina's men's performances were rounded off by Scott Morgan placing 89th in 24:53 followed by Steve Magnuson in 90th in 24:54.
The men faced nine top-30 ranked teams, eight of which finished in the top 10 of the meet. No. 20 Tulsa took first, tied at No. 17 Princeton second, host No. 24 Notre Dame third, No. 10 Florida State fourth, No. 21 New Mexico sixth, No. 14 Texas A&M seventh, No. 29 Washington State eighth, and No. 11 NC State in 10th. Carolina did outplace No. 26 Michigan who finished 19th in the team finish.
"Overall I think both teams feel like we have a lot left to give out on the course," said Coach VanAlstyne, "They are encouraged and looking forward to getting to Wisconsin and proving they do deserve to be among the best teams in the country."
The Tar Heels will next head to Madison, Wisc., on October 12th for the Wisconsin Invitational. The meet is expected to prove to be a highlight on the NCAA Division I cross country circuit with more ranked competition running in the field.