When Head Coach Jon Warren thought he might have his group of stalwart contributors lined up for the indoor track season, a few new athletes jumped in after the gun went off on the 2012 indoor season. Freshman Will Firth and junior Sam McGuffie, also a running back on the football team, both placed first among Owls in the mile run and 60-meter hurdles, respectively.
Despite the arrival of a few newcomers, the bulk of the talent was found in the heptathlon, which saw junior Clayton Chaney finish second overall, first among collegiate competitors. Chaney was solid in every event, finishing no lower than third in any of the seven events and finishing first in the 60-meter hurdles. Following Chaney in fourth place with 4,825 points was sophomore Ben Pressley, and junior Jack Spinks was in eighth place with 3,672 points, confirming that the heptathlon will once again be a strong event for the men's squad.
The throwers continued to improve across the board for Rice, with McGuffie also making a foray into the shot put, finishing 17th after throwing for 12.64 meters. Freshman Chris Sanders was 16th after making a throw of 12.72 meters on his second try. Senior Alex Zinchenko was stellar once again, taking fourth place with a throw of 16.77 meters, still 0.77 meters off his personal best. Sophomore Nick Williams was 21st in the weight throw with a toss of 11.57 meters.
In the jumping events, freshman JJ Walker, also a defensive back on the football team, jumped 13.96 meters in the triple jump to finish seventh out of nine competitors. McGuffie was impressive in his first long jump of the season, jumping 6.98 meters on his third try to earn sixth place and Walker jumped 6.33 meters on his final try to finish 13th. In the "B" division of the long jump, Sanders took seventh place.
Freshman Chris Pillow and junior Alec Hsu competed in the pole vault, both vaulting 4.77 meters to hold down sixth and seventh place. Junior Tyler Wiest made a decent effort in the high jump as he jumped 1.95 meters to finish just off the medal podium.
The only sprinters that ran for Rice were the 60-meter hurdles: McGuffie, Sanders and senior Lee Johnson. None advanced to the finals. McGuffie led the way for the Owls with a time of 8.57 seconds, while Johnson and Sanders ran the event in 8.78 seconds and 8.89 seconds, respectively. The 400-meter dash was a particularly successful event for Rice, as senior Collin Shurbet crossed the finish line in eighth place, Johnson in 26th place and sophomore Breland Coleman in 38th.
Warren spoke about the meet up until this point, noting the solid contributions of both newcomers and veterans.
"The heptathlon went really well with Clayton Chaney beating all of the collegiate athletes," Warren said. "He and Ben Pressley both set personal bests. Collin Shurbet in the 400-meter dash, Alex Zinchenko in the shot put and Sam McGuffie in the long jump all posted excellent efforts. McGuffie, who will be competing as an heptathlete, also shined in the 60-meter hurdles and did ok in the shot put, two events he competed in for the first time ever."
The 800-meter run was even more fruitful for the Owls, with senior Dan Sloat coming in fourth place with a time of 1:56.05, while junior Mike Troop was a second behind in 11th place. Freshman Kyle Denny rounded out the Owls in 21st place, running the event in 2:02.48.
The distance events were a strong suit for Rice yet again, with Firth besting fellow Owl senior Michael Trejo in the mile race by five-hundredths of a second with a time of 4:17.95. The 3,000-meter run gave Rice eight more points courtesy of sophomore John Cavallo, who was two seconds off of the winning runner to finish in second. Fellow sophomore Tony Urbanelli crossed the finish line in 9:07, and junior James Llamas finished in 8:45 to capture 12th place.
The distance runners' performances were once again the highlight of the meet for Warren.
"I thought that we had an excellent meet today with a lot of high places, a few collegiate victories and marks that will rank well in Conference USA," Warren said. "The distance and middle distance crews each did well, especially when you consider that for most of them it was their first meet."
In the 4-x-400 meter relay, the squad of Shurbet, Johnson, Denny and Sloat ran the event in 3:22.4 minutes to take fifth place. They and some of the other Owls will head to Lincoln, Neb. this weekend for the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational. The rest will have the Texas A&M Challenge to look forward to on Feb. 11 in College Station.