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First-timers pace the day

It wasn’t the record-smashing type of meet the USF women’s indoor track and field team put together in its first three outings this spring, but the Bulls still managed to post five personal bests and two first-place finishes at the Carolina Heels Challenge in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday.

“It was an OK meet,” USF coach Greg Thiel said. “It can’t be like it has been every time.”

Thiel said the Bulls struggled to gain the intensity they had in their previous meets, partly due to traveling and partly because other schools held out their top runners.

“In most sports, you’re going to have your off day,” Thiel said. “We kind of quietly did some good things.

“We had some real nice races, but the intensity and excitement just wasn’t there.”

Pacing the Bulls was sophomore Bente General, who helped the 4×400-meter relay team capture its second consecutive win and won the one-mile race in her first time competing in the event.

General finished the mile in 4:52.68, which was good for the fastest time in Conference USA this season. She also was just two seconds short of senior Cori Kill’s school record of 4:50.11.

“She’s going to run the mile again this weekend and possibly (the mile and 800m) at conference,” Thiel said. “We think she can qualify for nationals.”

General, along with Karoline Hagen, Alexis McGaffagan and Amber Delpino, took first in the relay in 3:50.77, almost six seconds faster than the second-place team from North Carolina State.

One runner Thiel singled out as having a particularly good meet was freshman Jessica Hellender. In her first time competing in the 5,000 meters, she finished in third place, while running the fastest conference time so far this season — 17:20.35.

“It was her first time running (the event), and for her to run that kind of time is pretty impressive,” Thiel said. “She just ran an incredible race.”

The Bulls travel this weekend to Indianapolis, Ind., for the Cannon IV Championships.