Senior runner makes history by breaking school record

By Max Carter – Staff Writer – jcarter1@unca.edu

UNC Asheville track and field senior Sarah Gentry, recently added a new accolade to her career when she broke the school’s record for women’s 800-meter.

The record, previously held by Zola Davis, was set in 2001 with a time of 2 minutes, 10.69 seconds.

Gentry broke the record with a time of 2:09.96, the fastest in UNCA history, at the 49ers Classic in Charlotte on Mar. 14.

Gentry would go on to break this record once more on Mar. 29 during the Raleigh Relays at North Carolina State University. She broke her own record with a time of 2:08.96.

“Setting the record was a huge fulfillment,” Gentry said. “It was a goal I set my sophomore year.”

There was not much competition to break Davis’ record, Gentry said. The record stood strong for 10 years, with the closest time being six seconds short of Davis’.

The long-lasting record was something Gentry set her sights on breaking when she was moved from the 400-meter to the 800 in 2010.

According to the coaching staff, there was a lot of promise in Gentry as a sophomore, which encouraged her transition to the 800.

“We really saw her speed beginning to increase and thought her skills would be better utilized in the 800 m,” assistant track and field coach Adam Puett said. “She had her eye on breaking the record since then.”

In 2012, Gentry nearly broke the record, but finished fractions of a second behind Davis’ time.

“Last year I had been so close to breaking it, so finally achieving the record was a huge milestone for me,” Gentry said.

Her performance this season has provided her with some awards as well. When Gentry set the record in Charlotte, she received the title of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Athlete of the Week and the Big South Women’s Track Athlete of the Week.

The success of the women’s track and field team has been fundamental in teaching the younger athletes the reward of practice, Puett said. Most freshmen are not familiar with the competition seen at the college level, Puett said.

“Coming out of high school and going to a Division-1 school means harder meets than you’d be used to,” Puett said. “Good things come from hard work. That makes Sarah such a great leader.”

Gentry plans to graduate in May, making this her final season with the Bulldog track and field team.

“My best time with the team this year has been winning the distance medley relay at indoor conference with Kelsie Rubino, Melanie Kulesz and Anna Gelbach,” Gentry said.

As for the men’s team, they may be younger, but are showing a lot of growth, according to Puett.

“At our next meet, Milan (Ristic) has a good shot at winning the 110 hurdles and the 200 m. I also think Kurt Hibert could find himself on the podium with a win in free weight throws. He has shown a lot of improvement from last season,” Puett said.

The UNCA track and field team is traveling to Lynchburg, Va., on Thursday to compete in the Big South Conference Championship. Gentry will compete in the 800, the 1500 and the 4x 400 relay, the most distance she has ever run in a competition.

“I’m really just hoping to perform as best I can,” Gentry said.

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