GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The University of North Carolina track and field teams finished competition at the 69th Annual Pepsi Florida Relays on Saturday with top finishes against nationally-ranked competition heading into the beginnings of championship season.
"It was a very good weekend for the team at the Florida Relays," said head coach Harlis Meaders, "The performance of the meet belongs to Sarah Howard and her huge PR in the shot put. I am very happy for Sarah."
In the shot put university invitational, Sarah Howard threw a personal best 53-0 ¾ (16.17 meters) to place sixth overall. This was Howard's first clearance of 16 meters in the shot put in her collegiate career.
AJ Hicks placed fifth in the shot put with his toss of 52-7 ¼ (16.03 meters).
"On the track the men's 4x400 ran a very aggressive race and dropped their season best by two seconds," said Coach Meaders, "It wasn't a perfect race but I am happy with the improvement from last week. We haven't reached our full potential yet. It's going to exciting as we prepare for the ACC meet in two weeks."
On the second day of the Duke Invitational in Durham, N.C., the Tar Heels shined on the track again with multiple personal bests and top-finishes.
"It's great to see a balanced team coming to life. It's a part of our overall vision," said Coach Meaders, "If things go as they have historically we will have throwers, hurdles, jumpers, vaulters, long and middle distance runners as well as a relay team all qualify for the first round of the NCAA Championships."
Lianne Farber smashed her personal record in the 800 by four seconds, coming in one-tenth of a second off of first with her 2:05.64. Elizabeth Whelan followed with a personal best for her in the 800 at 2:08.54.
"To start the day I thought our ladies in the 800 ran pretty solid," said assistant coach Mark VanAlstyne, "Lianne had her season debut in the short distance and basically blew it out of the water. She has run a big PR now in successive weekends with national qualifying times in the long 5K and the short 800, so that bodes well for her when she makes the 1,500 debut later this season. She will really be able to put it all out there."
"Lizzy Whelan followed Lianne and got her own PR by another few tenths of a second," added Coach VanAlstyne, "We were able to identify some tactical mistakes and she'll be able to better herself in the next few meets for certain as this is also her second consecutive weekend with a top time in the 800."
Caroline O'Hea earned a personal best in the 3,000-meter steeplechase finishing in 11:03.53.
"Caroline had a second PR in the steeple in successive weekends, and that's a tough event for a freshmen to do well in," said Coach VanAlstyne, "So we're happy about her performance but know she can go faster when the time comes."
Tory Kemp finished second in the final of the women's 100-meter hurdles running the flight in 14.13, improving off her preliminary qualifier time of 14.62.
"Tory was a big highlight for us today," said Coach VanAlstyne, "Getting to the finals in the hurdles, she got out to good start and it feels like she is really close to going under 14 seconds with this being her fastest time yet. That's really positive for us as a team."
In field events, Phillip Morris cleared a season-best in the high jump as he tied for sixth with a height of 6-6 ¼ (1.99 meters).
"Phillip finally had a meet that he felt was a good push for him," said Coach VanAlstyne, "He had some good attempts at 6-8 and I think is getting into his own groove."
Chris DiLorenzo placed fourth in the shot put with his throw of 54-2 ½ (16.52 meters).
Daisaun White finished fourth in the men's triple jump, reaching 46-6 ¼ (14.18 meters).
"The consistency Chris and Daisaun are showing for us in the field is great, especially as we are preparing them for the conference championships with tweaks here and there," said Coach VanAlstyne, "That consistency through slight improvements week by week will pay off with the changes we make to their takeoffs and releases."
"Competing at home next week will be a great thing for us," added Coach Meaders, "It should be a great meet with a lot of exciting things on the track and in the program."
The Tar Heels will next compete at home on senior day with the Joe Hilton Invitational Saturday, April 13th. Several special events will take place at Irwin Belk Track during the meet including a UNC Faculty Mile, the McAfee Mile to honor Tar Heel legend Reggie McAfee, and a celebration of the senior class. Stay tuned to GoHeels.com for more information on being a part of the special day with UNC Track & Field.