The Texas A&M Invitational was anything but a tuneup for the Conference USA Indoor Championship for the women's track team as the ladies finished second among C-USA teams at the meet and asserted their dominance in a few events as well. Seniors Becky Wade and Allison Pye ranked first and second in the 5,000-meter run and second and fourth among C-USA runners, respectively. Saturday's one-two finish in the 3,000-meter run showed their opponents exactly what they will have to deal with next weekend. Wade was two seconds off of her personal best after crossing the finish line in 9:31.13, while Pye was less than two seconds behind her at 9:33.12. Sophomore Farrah Madanay followed closely behind to capture 10th place and to give the Owls three runners in the top 10 of a highly competitive field. In the mile run, four Rice runners competed, with junior Heather Olson and senior Halsey Fowler placing in the top 10 as Olson nearly went below the five-minute mark. Junior Sarah Mason and freshman Allie Schaich were 13th and 17th, respectively. In the 800-meter run, seniors Sophie Peeters (fourth-fastest time of any C-USA runner this season) and Keltie John (10th-fastest) ran well, with Peeters running her way to a personal best in third place, while John was 12th overall and six seconds behind Peeters.
Senior Maya Kirk and freshman Tyneisha McCoy ran neck-and-neck in the 400-meter dash to place 14th and 15th, respectively. Junior Candace Springer and sophomore Simone Martin put forth solid efforts in the 200-meter dash but have work to do to creep inside the top 10 of C-USA. The 60-meter dash and 60-meter hurdles were no better, with Springer and McCoy finishing one-hundredth of a second apart in 15th and 16th in the dash; sophomore Sojourner Brown was 18th in the hurdles.
The distance medley relay team of Olson, John, Mason and Peeters took first place, beating Baylor University and Texas A&M University. The 4-x-400 meter relay ‘B' team was next-to-last after Head Coach Jim Bevan opted not to run the top team for Rice.
In the field events, the pole vaulters really shined, with all five competitors finishing in the top 10. The upperclassmen led the way; senior Cleona Oliver was fifth with a personal-best indoor vault of 3.76 meters and junior Casie Wilson also set a personal-best height of 3.46 meters to come in seventh place. Freshmen Marielle Brisbois, Chaney Turney and Alicia Janke also hit 3.46 meters but tied for eighth due to their need for an extra try to clear the height.
Senior Brittany Brown and freshman Claire Uke were 12th and 16th in the weight throw, with Uke throwing a personal best. Brown will look to place inside the top 10 in the C-USA meet next week. In the shot put, Uke and freshman Olivia Williams took 12th and 13th places, respectively. Martin was 14th in the long jump and freshman Morgan Yarbrough and senior Kiri Kendall finished back-to-back in the high jump, each jumping 1.59 meters. However, it seems clear from the field events that the pole vault will be the best bet for points for Rice, with possible surprise points in the throwing events.
Bevan had some positive things to say about the team's performance heading into the conference meet at the University of Houston's Yeoman Fieldhouse next weekend.
"We made some breakthroughs today as our vaulters made some new bars and learned about some technical changes," said Bevan. "I was especially proud of Casie Wilson, who is really improving after putting in her time. Yarborough scored in the high jump in her first meet. Olson had a big breakthrough in the mile, winning her heat handily by outkicking the field with a 32.3 in the last 200 meters."
The Owls have the weekend off before tackling the best in Conference USA next weekend at the University of Houston.