The Wolfpacker

May-June 2020

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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46 ■ THE WOLFPACKER A ll Hall Of Fame swimming coach Don Easterling ever wanted from his athletes was for them to be successful — and right now the world is waiting for the same thing from one former swimmer in particular. Ralph Baric, a four-time ACC champion distance swimmer under Easterling's watch in the 1970s, is now one of the world's foremost researchers developing treatments for COVID-19 at his laboratory at UNC Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health. Baric, a two-time graduate of NC State, received one of the first test strands of the novel coronavirus and made international head- lines for the advances he and the researchers at the Baric Lab made in developing an oral antiviral drug to treat COVID-19 symptoms that is now in clinical human trials. Baric, a UNC professor of microbiology and immunology, has a string of titles by his name: William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Pro- fessor at UNC, Harvey Weaver Scholar from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Established Investigator Awardee from the American Heart Association. Over the last three decades, he has established himself as a global expert studying coronaviruses and has long warned that novel vi- ruses, such as COVID-19, present a significant and ongoing global threat because of their ability to jump from animals to the human population and because of their rapid spread, two things that have forced a near-global economic and social shutdown. And while his lab is based in Chapel Hill, Baric developed his background in microbiology and immunologist at NC State, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology in 1977 and a Ph.D. in microbiology in 1982. After a post-doc fellowship at Southern California ended in 1986, Baric opened his laboratory in Chapel Hill. While at NC State, Baric was a contributing member to Easter- ling's highly successful swim- ming program. In fact, he was one of the primary reasons the Wolfpack pulled off one of the greatest feats in Atlantic Coast Conference history in any sport. As a freshman for Easterling's team in 1973, the native of Penns Grove, N.J., won three individ- ual titles and one relay cham- pionship to help the Wolfpack complete its mission and sweep all 18 events at the conference championship meet in Charlot- tesville, Va. It's a feat that had never been done before and hasn't been done since. It was the third ti- tle in a string of 12 consecutive ACC championships for Easter- ling's program (1971-82). Baric was a sensation at that event, winning the 1,650-yard freestyle, the 500 freestyle and 400 individual medley, setting conference records in all three. For good measure, when East- erling needed a lead-off swim- mer for the 800-yard freestyle relay, former swimming coach and athletics director Willis Casey advised Easterling to throw Baric into the lineup. "But he's a distance swimmer, not a sprinter," Easterling said. "He's still coming off the high of winning the 400 IM, he'll do fine," Casey answered. The Wolfpack won the event going away, setting a conference record in the process. Baric won another title in the 400 IM as a sophomore, but no oth- ers in his career. By then, NC State's roster was filled with future Olympians and NCAA champions like Steve Gregg, Dan Harrigan and Duncan Goodhew. "Ralph was a very quiet young man, but with a great biting sense of humor," Easterling said. PACK PAST BY TIM PEELER Former Wolfpack Swimmer Ralph Baric Is Developing Treatments For COVID-19 Baric and his team of researchers at UNC Chapel Hill have developed an oral antiviral drug to treat COVID-19 symptoms that is now in clinical human trials. PHOTO COURTESY UNC GILLINGS SCHOOL OF GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH

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