I’m a Wake fan, in large part b/c they have been building their actual academics, not just their brand name (looks pointedly at a couple of other usnwr climbers).
I have a couple of prof-friends who have migrated there in recent years and their reports back to the mother ship have been really good- smart, engaged kids, pretty supportive admin. Strong sciences, but pretty good all around. It gets slagged as “Work Forest” and there is a tiny bit of truth to that- but from the 1 current and 1 recent WF student I know, it seems to be largely self motivated- in the way that, say, JHU is.
Agree that URichmond is another good choice on the way south- both WF & URichmond are still somewhat under recognized imo (whereas some of their bigger name neighbors are a tad bit over recognized imo). Since you will be in the area, Davidson is another option on that loop that seems to do well with the science-y / pre-med kids I know.