Coaches across the entire spectrum of sports continually yearn for their team to exceed expectations. The coaches of the men's and women's cross country teams need not yearn any longer, as both contingents of runners ran well at the Houston Baptist University/Puma Invitational on Oct. 7 and at the Pre-National Invitational on Oct. 16.
Starting with the HBU Invitational, the women's team dominated all comers, winning the meet by 24 points over their closest competitor, the University of Houston, despite not racing four of their top six runners. Freshman Allie Schaich paced the Owls to their third victory of the season by taking third place in the three-mile race with a time of 17:48, just one second ahead of sophomore teammate Lindsay Miller. Sophomore Johanna Ohm and freshman Laura Michel were sixth and seventh overall, while freshman Kathleen Abadie was fifth amongst Owls to finish out the scoring. Even though seniors Becky Wade, Allison Pye and Halsey Fowler, along with sophomore Farrah Madanay, were not racing, Head Coach Jim Bevan had little to worry about when trusting the younger members of his team to get the job done.
"Our ladies ran an awesome race and I was delighted with the performances, led by Allie and Lindsay," Bevan stated. "We were able to move up throughout the race and Johanna, Laura and Kathleen really picking people off throughout the race. This was personal best for Laura, Kathleen and Lindsay. The race was also a good development race for [sophomore] Sarah Mason, [freshman] Kylie Cullinan and [senior] Sophie [Peeters]."
As for the men, only a few runners competed for Rice at the meet, as Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) chose not to field a full team. Sophomores Travis Roberts and Tony Urbanelli were the only Owls at the meet, with Roberts crossing the finish line in fifth place, running the four-mile course in 20:24, while Urbanelli was 23rd overall, 1:06 behind Roberts.
Fast forward to last Sunday, when both squads competed at full strength in Terre Haute, Ind. at the Pre-National Invitational, a meet chock full of big-name teams. The women fared considerably better than their male counterparts with Wade leading the charge for the Owls for the third time this season. Wade finished 16th overall at the meet, running the six-kilometer competition in 21:07. The University of Texas at El Paso's Risper Kimaiyo and the University of Tulsa's Paula Whiting finished first and 11th, respectively, and were the only Conference USA runners to finish ahead of Wade. Fowler and Pye were 51st and 66th, respectively, finishing just 14 seconds apart, while Miller and Schaich were 134th and 161st, respectively. This tally of points was enough to give Rice 12th place amongst 37 teams, with conference rival Tulsa finishing 10th. The six-kilometer race was the longest race the women had competed in this season. The men's team ran 22nd at the meet, led by sophomore John Cavallo, who was 99th overall and ran the eight-kilometer race in 25:44. Junior Gabe Cuadra was just three seconds behind Cavallo, while fellow junior Matt Carey finished 154th overall, two seconds ahead of senior Michael Trejo. Freshman Will Firth was seven seconds behind Trejo, while Roberts was three seconds behind Firth for sixth on the team. Warren was not particularly pleased with the team's effort.
"[Sunday's] meet did not go as well as I had hoped," Warren said. "We trained pretty hard leading up to this meet, so I expected the guys to be a little beat up, but I thought we would be okay. I miscalculated a bit and a few guys felt rough. We also had some bad luck with Matt Carey getting knocked down, twice. We still have plenty of time to get it together for the C-USA Championship."
The postseason begins Oct. 31 for both teams, as the C-USA Championship will be held at Wildcat Golf Club at 9 a.m. Currently, only Tulsa's men's team is ranked among the top-30 teams in the nation at No. 27. Consequently, the C-USA Championship is theirs to lose, with UTEP and Rice jockeying for second place. The women's race should figure to play more into Rice's favor, as the Owls appear to be basically even with Tulsa, the other main contender for the conference title.