At the Leonard Hilton Invitational held at the University of Houston last Friday, the men's track team didn't even have to go the distance to come away with a solid performance in the meet. With only one participant in the mile and no participants in the 5,000-meter run, Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) did not see the need for the distance runners to compete at the year's first indoor meet, preferring to eschew the element-free environment in favor of more practice for his runners.
Even without the presence of Owls in the long-distance events, Rice had a productive meet, especially from senior thrower Alex Zinchenko. The shot put saw Zinchenko, junior Clayton Chaney and freshman Chris Sanders place third, 12th and 13th, respectively. Zinchenko's mark of 17.44 meters was only eight centimeters shy of Tim Vala's 32-year-old shot put record. Chaney and Sanders, both multi-event participants, improved their shot put ability, a characteristically poor event for many heptathletes.
"[Alex] was excellent in his first indoor competition this season with a very strong mark," Warren said.
Sophomore Nick Williams placed sixth in the weight throw, a full 1.31 meters short of his personal best. In the field events, sophomore Ben Pressley jumped 6.72 meters in the long jump. While there was no heptathlon, Chaney, Sanders and Pressley participated in a few of the individual events that comprise the heptathlon. Sanders was eighth in the 60-meter hurdles, while Pressley was 10th and Chaney was fifth in the high jump after jumping 1.94 meters Freshman Chris Pillow and junior Alec Hsu both no-heighted in the pole vault. Warren spoke about the promising results and the abilities of the team that were shown in the first meet.
"Our multi-event athletes Clayton Chaney, Ben Timmer and Chris Sanders each posted solid marks in a number of events," Warren said. "It was definitely a strong opening meet for our team, and I am looking forward to our next one in two weeks."
In the running events, the Owls were particularly strong in the 400-meters, with senior Collin Shurbet, freshman Kyle Denny and senior Lee Johnson taking first, sixth and ninth, respectively. Shurbet was still almost two seconds off his indoor best, but Warren was pleased with his run.
"Collin Shurbet was fabulous in winning the [400-meter run]," Warren said.
In the middle-distance events, seniors Jordan Hmaidan and Michael Trejo ran well in the 800-meter run and mile run. Hmaidan ran the 800-meter run in 2:01.59 and Trejo posted a time of 4:19.88 in the mile, which was a personal best for him. The 4-x-400 meter relay was the last event for the Owls, and the relay team of Shurbet, Denny, Johnson and Pressley finished the event in 3:25.09 to take second place.
Next up will be the Houston Indoor Invitational on Jan. 27-28, which will feature more Owls in action than this past week's meet.