The seven top-10 finishes out of all athletes competing at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational in Lincoln, Neb. this past weekend demonstrated that the men's track team is more than ready to play against in the big boys. This victory is possibly a sign of things to come in College Station at the Texas A&M Challenge this weekend.
The headliner for the Owls this season was senior Dan Sloat, who cranked out a personal best in the 800-meter run with a time of 1:52.63. Sloat, who has been a top-10 800-meter runner in Conference USA in his years at Rice, appears posed to be the favorite to win the event at the C-USA Indoor Championship at the end of the month. Sophomore John Cavallo switched from the 3,000-meter run to the mile run this weekend, posting a personal best of 4:17.19 to grab 14th place. In the 3,000-meter run, freshman Will Firth and senior Michael Trejo picked up decent results for Rice, running in 10th and 11th place. Trejo, who set his personal record in the indoor 3,000-meter run at the Texas A&M Challenge last year, will look to that venue this weekend as a good opportunity to break his record again.
Competing in the short-distance events on Friday were senior Collin Shurbet and freshman Kyle Denny in the 400-meter run and junior Clayton Chaney, senior Lee Johnson and sophomore Ben Pressley in the 60-meter hurdles. All failed to reach the finals of their individual events, but Pressley also finished 14th in the long jump on Friday.
The field events were more stagnant, with junior Tyler Wiest still looking to break the two-meter mark again, after finishing 10th with a jump of 1.94 meters. Freshman J.J. Walker jumped eight centimeters farther than last week in the triple jump, having a best jump of 14.04 meters. Senior Alex Zinchenko threw the shot put nearly half a meter farther than last week, with his top throw landing 17.20 meters beyond the throwing circle to give him seventh place.
The final Owls in the meet were heptathletes junior Sam McGuffie and freshman Chris Sanders, who ended up with ninth- and 10th-place finishes, respectively. McGuffie's point tally of 4,970 points was a record for any Owl participating in his or her first heptathlon, and McGuffie's results early on gave him confidence he could win the event. In the first event, the 60-meter dash, McGuffie finished second by one-hundredth of a second, and then went on to finish second in the high jump, fourth in the long jump and eighth in the shot put. His Owl counterpart had a rough start with a 12th-place in finish in the 60-meter dash, but followed up with a fifth-place finish in the long jump, fourth place in the shot put and fifth in the high jump. Sanders was sixth after day one, while McGuffie was third.
Saturday started off strong for McGuffie as he posted a fourth-place finish in the 60-meter dash with a time of 8.42 seconds, with Sanders in seventh. The pole vault sabotaged any hopes either of them had for finishing among the top five competitors, as McGuffie's and Sanders' inexperience with proper technique caused them to finish in 12th and 13th place respectively. The last event, the 1,000-meter dash, saw Sanders finish seven seconds ahead of McGuffie to capture eighth and ninth places for Rice.
Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) talked about the meaning of this meet for his team.
"The team that traveled this weekend, almost to a man, had either a personal best, a season best, a top C-USA mark or all three," Warren said. "Starting with the heptathlon, where both Sam McGuffie and Chris Sanders set great first time marks, to the 4-x-400m relay, to the middle distance and distance races, we competed well and earned some top places in the meet. Even the few guys that did not set that elusive personal best had positive days."
All Owls will be on hand in College Station tomorrow for the Texas A&M Challenge, Rice's last meet before the C-USA Indoor Championship in Birmingham, Ala on Feb. 25-26.