Despite being one of the top groups on the men's track team last year, this year has been somewhat trying for the pole vaulters, save for Saturday's efforts by freshman Ben Timmer and senior Garrett Stafford, who had their best vaults of the year at the University of Texas-El Paso Invitational. Timmer, who had not cleared the bar in one outdoor meet this season, came through with a fifth-place finish after vaulting 4.66 meters (15' 3.5"), and Stafford turned in a solid performance as well with a 4.51 meter (14' 9.5") vault that gave him sixth place. Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) spoke about the meet from the vaulters' standpoint.
"It was a humongous meet for Ben," Warren said. "I think he knew he could have gone higher, but he kind of bailed on his last vault. Still, it was obviously a big improvement for him, but more importantly, it was a promising performance for his future."
Coming through with more solid results were junior Alex Zinchenko and senior Will Meyers, who went 1-2 in the shot put with throws of 16.64 meters (54' 7.25") and 14.87 meters (48' 9.5"). Meyers also continued his success in the hammer throw, placing seventh with a mark of 45.33 meters (148' 9").
Another bright spot was redshirt sophomore Jack Spinks venturing back into the high jump, where both he and sophomore Tyler Wiest jumped 1.98 meters (6' 6"). Spinks also continued competing in the javelin, throwing 47.70 meters (156' 6") to nail down fifth place, as well as the discus, in which his throw of 34.69 meters (113' 10") was good enough for eighth. Rounding out the field events was senior Ugo Nduaguba in the long and triple jump, who has posted some of his best marks in April and May in previous years. Saturday was no different, as he had a season-best jump of 15.42 meters (50' 7.25") in the triple jump to finish second, while jumping 6.63 meters (21' 9") in the long jump.
Warren talked about Ugo's jumps and building towards the conference meet.
"Ugo had a good effort out there, something that he can build on and maybe get another foot or two in the triple jump," Warren said.
Turning to the track, it was another good meet for senior Connor Hayes, who paired a season-best time of 14.87 seconds in 110 meter hurdles with a 54.46 second 400 meter hurdles, in which he saw juniors Collin Shurbet and Lee Johnson finish second and third with times of 52.46 seconds and 53.78 seconds, respectively. Johnson also finished in seventh in the 110 meter hurdles, running the event in 15.36 seconds. Hayes and Shurbet also teamed with sophomores Ikechi Nnamani and Donte Moore in the 4x100 meter relay to run a time of 42.49 seconds. Nnamani also tried his hand at the 100 meter dash, finishing the event in 11.42 seconds.
With Moore back from spring football practice, it was clear that the sprinter had not lost any of his quickness, finishing 11th in the 200 meter dash with a time of 21.67 seconds, a personal best for him. The middle distance events went well for Rice as well, with senior Jacob Owolabi clocking a season best 48.25 seconds in the 400 meter dash and junior Dan Sloat placing second in the 800 meter run with a time of 1:53.22.
Despite nearly all the distance runners having the week off, senior Michael Trejo carried the torch well in Walnut, Calif. at the 53rd Annual Mt. SAC Relays, taking seventh place in the 10,000 meter run with a career-best time of 29:44.85, which ranks fourth in school history. Also competing was senior decathlete Philip Adam, who had a season-high point total of 7,327, which ranks second among any C-USA athlete. Freshmen Ben Pressley and Justin Gross ended the event with 6,103 points and 5,353 points, respectively, while senior Pete Navarra had 5,289 points. Warren talked about Trejo and Adam's efforts out west.
"Well, Michael beat my time in the 10K, that's for sure," Warren said. "He was only three-tenths of a second away from being third in Rice history, but for him to have that good of a time on that big of a stage is impressive. Philip's just hitting his stride, and I think that amount of points gives him a good chance to qualify for the national meet."
The Owls take to the track for the final home meet of the year, the J. Fred Duckett Twilight meet, which will be held at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Holloway Field/Rice Track and will feature athletes from nearly 40 schools.