With the Conference USA Outdoor Championship being held at Rice Track/Holloway Field this past weekend, the men's track team aimed to use this home field advantage to help propel them to a top-three finish at the C-USA Outdoor Championship for the first time since 2008. But the perfect weather and familiar surroundings couldn't give the Owls the 30 extra points needed to surpass the University of Tulsa, as Rice finished fourth for the third straight year. As always, the Owls had strong showings in the decathlon and distance events, but had a few surprises including the shot put and 4x400 meter relay results.
The weekend started strong for Rice, as senior Philip Adam had built a strong lead in the decathlon after the first day of competition. Adam continued his effort on Friday, winding up with 7,514 points, which will assuredly give him a spot in the NCAA National meet. Adam dominated many events, finishing first in the 100 meter dash, 1500 meter run, shot put, high jump, discus and pole vault, and placing second in the long jump, the 400 meter dash and the javelin. Fellow Owl, redshirt sophomore Clayton Chaney, joined his teammate atop the podium after his 6,901 points gave him second place. Chaney's marks in the high jump, 110 meter hurdles and javelin were all good for first place amongst all decathletes. Junior Pete Navarra's third place finish gave Rice three more points for a total of 21 earned from the event.
The long jump yielded five points for Rice as freshman Justin Gross finished fifth with a mark of 7.33 meters and senior Ugo Nduaguba was eighth after jumping 7.28 meters. Nduaguba's signature event, the triple jump, saw him finish second with a jump of 15.57 meters. The high jump had Owls in fourth, sixth and eighth places, as sophomore Tyler Wiest had a season-best mark of 2.03 meters, while sophomore Ikechi Nnamani and redshirt sophomore Jack Spinks jumped 1.98 meters. Spinks and Navarra finished 13th and 12th in the javelin, respectively, and senior Garrett Stafford and freshman Ben Timmer were ninth and 10th to round out the field events.
Going to the track, the Owls had two good results in the short distance events, with sophomore Donte Moore grabbing sixth place in the 200 meter dash and senior Jacob Owolabi getting fifth in the 400 meter dash. Junior Dan Sloat came up short of cracking the top three, and placed fifth with a time of 1:52, while sophomore Alex Weinheimer picked up one point for Rice with an eighth place finish. The long distance events were a steady source of points for the Owls, with junior James Llamas and freshmen Travis Roberts and Wyatt Doop finishing in third, sixth and eighth, respectively, with Llamas and Roberts running their best times of the year. Senior Michael Trejo was seventh in the 5,000 meter run, while Roberts and Doop were 15th and 17th. The Owl effort in the 10,000 meter run was also led by Trejo with junior Matt Carey and redshirt sophomore Gabe Cuadra in ninth and 11th. The hurdle events saw the trio of senior Connor Hayes and juniors Collin Shurbet and Lee Johnson all pick up points, with Hayes finishing sixth in the 110 meter hurdles, while Shurbet had a time of 52.78 seconds in the 400 meter hurdles to finish fourth. Johnson was eighth in the same event with a time of 55.71 seconds.
The relays were productive for Rice, especially the 4x400, which saw Moore, Hayes, Owolabi and Shurbet get second place with a time of 3:09.45. The 4x100 squad of sophomores Isaac Adako and Dylan Bradley, Moore, and freshman Will Beasley were fifth with a time of 41.84 seconds.
The Owls will now wait for individuals to advance to the NCAA West Regional held May 27-28 in Eugene, Ore. Adam will advance, possibly along with Nduaguba in the triple jump and Zinchenko in the shot put.