Track & Field: Alowonle wins two more ACC championships
Park 2012 graduate R.J. Alowonle continues to rack up Atlantic Coast Conference track championship titles.
Alowonle, now a sophomore at the University of North Carolina, raised his ACC championship gold medal count to four after winning the 400-meter hurdles and helping the Tar Heels’ 1600-meter relay team win conference title at last week’s 2014 ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Alowonle, who won seven state championships in high school for Park and holds Minnesota all-time records in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, was the defending ACC champ in the 400-meter hurdles. The Tar Heels also won last year’s 1600-meter relay ACC title.
Alowonle repeated as the 400-meter hurdle champion running a new personal best time of 50.23 seconds to capture the title. UNC’s Javonte Lipsey, who was the ACC champion in the event two years ago, came in second place with a new personal record at 50.65.
“It’s a really great feeling,” Alowonle said about his back-to-back championships. “I’m unbelievably blessed to have such a great training group. We have a lot of great 400 hurdlers here and that’s something really advantageous knowing that every day at practice I’m racing against top guys in the country, not just top guys on my team. It’s competitive at practice but at the end of the day we all know we’re wearing that Carolina Blue. We love each other and we really want to see every single one of us at national finals.”
“My family came down from Minnesota so it was really cool seeing them. It was great that I was able to compete well when they were here.”
Alowonle then ran the first leg of the 4x400 after already competing in the 400-meter relay and 400-meter hurdles earlier in the day. Alowonle dropped to third place after the first 200, but had a great kick in the last 200 to give North Carolina second place during the baton exchange. Kwame Donyinah, who also competed in the 4x100 and open 400, took the baton and carried his own against 400 runners with much more experience. When Donyinah gave the baton to Lipsey, North Carolina was still in second. After Lipsey’s first 200 he gained a second wind and began to will himself toward the front. Lipsey’s effort eventually resulted in North Carolina obtaining first place in the exchange. Ceo Ways ran the anchor leg for the Tar Heels where he and Florida State’s runner were neck and neck through most of the race. In the last 100 meters Ways was able to turn on the jets and heaved his way ahead of Florida State and narrowly edged a surging Pittsburgh team.
The 1600-meter relay team of Alowonle, Donyinah, Lipsey and Ways came in at 3:05.89, beating the second place team by 0.05 seconds and putting an exclamation mark on the meet’s final event.
“This 4x4 team is really special. It’s really special,” North Carolina head coach Harlis Meaders said. “It’s a young group, but they’ve been tested and that’s what you really like to see. The same group ran in the indoor national championship and we took them down to the Florida Relays. They ran exceptionally well against college teams and pro teams. So when it came down to the ACC Championships and the final event here, those guys have no fear. We knew we could trust on them. We had no doubt that they would be there for us.”
After finishing the second day of competition in fourth place with 23 points, the UNC men’s team earned 87 points on day No. 2 and outscored all other teams on the day. North Carolina ended the meet in second place on the men’s side behind Florida State by a score of 113 to 110. That’s the best finish by the North Carolina men’s squad since 1999.
Alowonle also talked about the team’s performance and how close the team was to winning the conference meet.
“We have a really, really good team and you see heart all the way through,” Alowonle said. “You don’t just see it from the seniors. There are a lot of young guys, a lot of freshman out there carrying a lot of weight for the team and that’s really inspirational.”
Alowonle said the Tar Heels have a close team that cares about each other.
“It’s not, ‘I want to do well for myself.’ it’s, ‘I want to do well for my team,’” he said. “A lot of times you don’t see that in track because track is kind of an individual sport that is also collective. The new coaching staff here really brought that it’s really not individual. Not everyone is going to have their best meet at a conference championship, and we saw that today, but as a whole we had a great meet. We really fought. That’s something really hard to put into words. It’s such a great feeling and I’m really proud of our guys.”
Video of the 400 hurdles
Video recap of UNC’s ACC Championships on GoHeels TV