ACC TRACK: Duke men, women 4th; UNC men 2nd, women 8th

Apr. 19, 2014 @ 10:52 PM

Duke javelin thrower Thomas Lang makes his mark hurling a long pointy object insane distances. But some days he has to do hurdles, the kind life throws at you.

Lang is slowly coming back from major shoulder reconstruction surgery just a year ago. Despite that, and a stiff back the day before he was to compete in the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships amid chilly, wet weather on Saturday, he won his event and helped Duke to a fourth-place finish.

Florida State held off a resurgent UNC to take first place. The Tar Heels finished three points back, 113-110, to capture second, their highest finish in the ACC Championships since 1999. Notre Dame finished third, and Virginia Tech rounded out the top five teams.

“I got off to a rough start. I fouled my first throw, had a short second throw that I don’t even think would have made finals, so there was a lot of pressure on my third throw,” Lang said of his qualifier for the championship round.

“Luckily I was able to put one together that bumped me up to first. From there I knew the rest of the meet was in my control being the last thrower,” he said.

In the final round “I moved down to third faster than I could blink my eyes. I kind of turned everything off mentally and just threw,” Lang said.

“Luckily I was able to piece together a throw that was not only good enough to win the competition, but also a personal best by just about two feet,” he said of his winning heave of 69.83 meters (229-1). “I’m waiting to crack that 70-meter barrier, but it’s close now, a lot closer than it was before the competition.”

UNC’s Houston Summers took the silver with a throw of 65.22 meters, or 214 feet. Ethan Shalaway of Pitt, against whom Lang competed in the same Pennsylvania high school conference, took third.

“I was so nervous I had a tough time eating breakfast” knowing he had to face those two throwers, said Lang, who had to get a treatment from his chiropractor the day before the meet due to his back.

Duke freshman Haley Meier pulled a stunning upset in the women’s 1,500 meters with a time of 4:30.33, beating a pair of opponents who had turned in top five times nationally this year. One of them, Elizabeth Whelan of UNC, finished second with a time of 4:31.10.

The Duke women also finished fourth, behind champions Florida State, Notre Dame in second, and Miami in third. N.C. State finished fifth. UNC finished eighth.

“I cried a few times,” Meier said of her reaction to winning gold. “I’m really surprised because in high school my twin sister Hannah always won everything, and I always got second to her. So it’s kind of weird to win something. I’ve never won anything before.” Her sister is a redshirt freshman at UNC dealing with an injury.

“I knew coming in here it would be a stacked field, and I was hoping it would be slow because I have a really strong kick,” Meier said. She got her wish.

“We started picking up about the third lap, and when the last lap hit everybody started kicking and so I just composed myself and said, ‘Stay here, stay here, wait,’” she said.

“So the last 200 I just said to myself, ‘Think like a sprinter. Lift those knees up. I know they feel like Jell-o, but give it all you’ve got left and hold on all the way until the line,’ ” she said. And that’s when Whalen made her move.

“The last 100 meters I could feel her. I think our shoes clipped on the last 100 meters. I said, ‘She’s right there, just hold on until you get to the line. Sprint, sprint, sprint,’” Meier said, all the way to the title.

Juliet Bottorff of Duke finished second in the women’s 5,000 meters.

For complete individual results, visit www.heraldsun.com online.