With just a handful of events left in their outdoor track careers, seniors Michael Trejo and Connor Hayes wasted no time in continuing to update their personal record books at the Stephen F. Austin Alumni Invitational in Nacogdoches, Texas on Saturday. After a personal best time in the 1,500 meter run at the Texas Southern University Relays of 3:57.02, Trejo dropped his time down by nearly three seconds at Fletcher Garner Track, winning the event with a time of 3:54.05.
"I am really excited to see my training and my racing are both going well," Trejo said. "I couldn't be too upset with the two personal bests I ran at C-USA Indoor, but I am looking to medal in the 5k and 10k at [Conference USA] Outdoor. I can run a comfortable 14:40, so I am looking to shave at least 10 seconds off. However, I'm not the type of runner that monitors his watch; I gauge off the guys around me and drive hard when it counts."
Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) talked about Trejo's recent run of success.
"The race kind of started out slow, but it suited Michael just fine," Warren said. "He had a great kick at the end, and it's races like these that show that Michael can be a force at the conference meet."
Trejo's senior counterpart Hayes also had success on Saturday, as he ran a time of 14.92 seconds in the 110 meter hurdles that gave him fourth place. The Brewster, Mass. native's 400 meter hurdles time of 53.40 came within five hundredths of a second of winning the event, and was a career-best, but juniors Lee Johnson and Collin Shurbet trailed right behind Hayes to ensure that Owls occupied second through fourth place in the race. Both Johnson and Shurbet had season best times of 53.48 and 53.85 seconds, respectively. Senior Jacob Owolabi ran the 400 meter dash in 48.36 seconds to finish third. Warren spoke about Owolabi's performances as of late.
"Jacob's really pieced together some of the best meets of his career, lately," Warren said. "He's really been an asset, especially on the 4x400 team."
The 800 meter run was also a bright spot for Rice, as sophomore Alex Weinheimer finished in second place with a personal best time of 1:51.53, while junior Dan Sloat had his usual impressive performance of third place, running a time of 1:52.96. The longer distance events had good results for Rice as well, with junior James Llamas running 15:25.89 in the 5,000 meter run to garner second place, while freshman Wyatt Doop finished in third in the 3,000 meter steeplechase. The short distance events did not yield as notable results, with freshmen Will Beasley and Ben Pressley competing in the 100 meter and 200 meter dashes, respectively.
"When [sophomore] Donte [Moore] gets back from spring football, we'll be looking for him and our other sprinters to get us some points," Warren said. "We think we can really get the 4x400 meter relay team down a few seconds if we add him."
The results from the field events were nearly as excellent, with junior Alex Zinchenko taking fifth in the shot put with a throw of 16.98 meters (55', 8.5") and fifth in the discus after a top throw of 45.63 meters (149', 8"). Senior Philip Adam took part in the shot put this weekend as well with an 11th-place finish. Senior Ugo Nduaguba jumped 6.80 meters (22', 3.75") in the long jump to place third, and Pressley had a jump of 6.77 meters (22', 2.5") to get fifth place. Freshman Justin Gross took a step back with a jump of 6.66 meters (21', 10.75"), which was good enough for sixth place. Senior Garrett Stafford vaulted 4.30 meters (14', 1.25") to finish fifth, with redshirt sophomore Clayton Chaney vaulting the same height in one more attempt to finish sixth. Sophomore high jumpers Ikechi Nnamani and Tyler Wiest both jumped 2.00 meters (6', 6.75"), with Nnamani finishing in third due to him needing fewer attempts to reach the height. Adam followed in fifth with a jump of 1.95 meters (6', 4.75"). Redshirt sophomore Jack Spinks continued to work on events in the decathlon, throwing the javelin 53.06 meters (174', 1") to end up in fourth place.
"Alex was really consistent at the 16 meter mark last year, and now he's holding steady at 17 meters," Warren said. "We can look for him to get up to 17.50 [meters] at the end of this year, because he's had some phenomenal warmup throws."
The 4x400 relay squad from Rice featured Shurbet, Owolabi, Sloat and Hayes and captured third place with a time of 3:15.98. The majority of the Owls will compete today and tomorrow at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, one of the biggest events in the state, while some throwers and long distance runners will race at Trinity University in San Antonio. Trejo will run in the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., one of the premier outdoor track events in the country. Trejo talked about what qualifying for the event meant to him.
"I'm relieved that I was accepted," Trejo said. "The final entry list didn't go up until the week before the race. This will be one of the biggest races I've run in college, and I'm excited to race some guys I don't normally get a shot at. In terms of preparation, my mileage has dropped, and I have been really trying to slow myself down on my recovery days. I have a few shakeout workouts between now and then, but the goal is to get some spring in the legs."