With the women's track team back in action and looking to reclaim its spot as one of the top teams in Conference USA, Head Coach Jim Bevan's team turned to its strength in the distance events to guide it to a strong finish in the Leonard Hilton Invitational held last Friday at the University of Houston.
The Owls continued to struggle in one of the short-distance events, but showed signs of improvement in another sprinting competition. In the 60-meter dash preliminaries, freshman Tyneisha McCoy, sophomore Simone Martin, freshman Precious Knighton and junior Candace Springer all finished between 26th and 30th place, eliminating them from contention for the finals of the event. However, Martin took third in the 200-meter dash, with McCoy only eight-tenths of a second behind her. Springer was neck-and-neck with McCoy, but her finish just one hundredth of a second slower gave her sixth place. Knighton was 10th with a time of 26.87 seconds. In the 60-meter hurdles, senior Kiri Kendall was 17th and freshman Alyssa Dugar was 19th, with only 19 hundredths of a second separating them.
The middle-distance events also showed a clustered finish for Rice, with the four runners in the 400-meter dash all finishing within three seconds of each other. Junior Lillian Nwora was 17th after crossing the finish line in 1:00.81, while senior Maya Kirk was almost a second behind her. Rounding out the Owls' runners in the event were sophomores Sojourner Brown and Larissa Ikelle in 25th and 27th place. Redshirt junior Halsey Fowler and junior Heather Olson gave Rice some points in the 800-meter run, with Fowler taking the second-place medal and Olson only five seconds behind in sixth place.
However, the backbone of the women's track squad was once again the distance events, with six runners in the top 25 of the mile run. Seniors Becky Wade and Allison Pye paced Rice, as expected, with Wade running a time of 4:52.04 and Pye just a second behind her. Wade, who finished second, was eight hundredths of a second from finishing first, while Pye was fourth. The last four runners for Rice, led by senior Sophie Peeters, all had personal best times in the event, as sophomore Kylie Cullinan, junior Sarah Mason and sophomore Kathleen Abadie finished within eighteen seconds of each other to finish in ninth, 12th, 13th and 21st places, respectively. Redshirt sophomore Farrah Madanay was stellar in the 5,000-meter run, grabbing second place for Rice with a time of 18:17.82 minutes.
The 4-x-400 relay teams still need some work in terms of competing with the likes of the University of Houston and the University of Texas, with the team of Kirk, Brown, McCoy and Nwora finishing seventh and Springer, Dugar, Ikelle and Knighton taking 10th place, well behind Texas' three foursomes, which swept the top three places.
The field events showed promise overall, especially in the weight throw and shot put. Senior Brittany Brown and junior Sharae Robinson were in good form at the first meet of the year after throwing for 16.02 meters and 15.23 meters in the weight throw, respectively. Their fourth- and sixth-place finishes were followed by freshmen Claire Uke and Olivia Williams taking home 11th and 18th place finishes. The shot put showed the freshmen's potential, with Uke, Williams and Dugar all showing they could compete with some of the region's top throwers. Pole vault and long jump were mild successes, as freshman Chaney Turney finished fourth in her first meet as a collegiate pole vaulter, and Kendall was 14th in the long jump.
With areas of strength reaffirmed and weaker events primed for more work in the coming week, the Owls will be ready for the University of Houston Indoor Invitational held next weekend.