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Men's track places third overall at C-USA Championship

By Jonathan Myers     3/12/09 7:00pm

Going into spring break, the men's track and field team was primed to put the finishing touches on the masterpiece that was the 2009 indoor season, but a third-place finish at the Conference USA Indoor Championships had the Owls feeling like the last movement ended on a sour note. Despite several outstanding performances, Rice had several minor injuries and mishaps that ultimately led to their diminished performance at conference.

Head coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) seemed to have had somewhat higher expectations for the team at the meet.

"We had a very disappointing meet," Warren said. "To be honest, it was not at all great. I thought we were going to be in good position for second, but we had injuries prior to the meet, and then our meet just didn't go well. For having a disappointing meet, I guess third's pretty good."

Many things seemed to unravel during the course of the two-day meet, as Warren noted that strange ailments haunted the Owls over several events.

"We had an injury in the 800 meter prelims that cost us points, and an asthma attack in the 5000," Warren said. "Our shot putters didn't throw as well, and our high jump didn't go as well as expected....There were good things that happened, but we just couldn't overcome our series of disasters."

Freshman Sam McGuffie continued to adjust quickly to being a member of the track team, running a 6.82-second 60 meters in the preliminaries, which was good for the second-fastest time. However, he slipped out of the blocks in the finals and ran the event in 7.04 seconds, finishing in eighth place. He also finished sixth in the high jump with a mark of 1.89 meters and was fifth in the long jump with 7.06 meters.

Besides McGuffie's performance, other freshmen also shone at the conference meet. Dan Sloat finished sixth in the 800 with a time of 1:56, while Collin Shurbet ran the 400 in 49.45 seconds, good enough for fourth place.

Clayton Chaney also continued the excellent performances put on by freshmen, finishing fifth in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.29 seconds, and third in the heptathlon. Sophomore Connor Hayes and senior Tyler Whitham finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the heptathlon.

"The heptathlon was obviously a good event for us, with Tyler muscling through a small injury," Warren said.

Turning to the long distance events, the Owls got relatively solid efforts from the team of seniors Aaron Robson, Brett Olson and Simon Bucknell. Robson and Olson picked up points for the squad, finishing third and fourth, respectively, in the 5000, and eighth and ninth, respectively, in the 3000. Bucknell had an excellent last 800 meters in the mile, pushing him to a fourth-place finish in the mile with a time of 4:20.

In the team events, Rice finished fourth in 4x400 with a team of Shurbet, Sloat, sophomore Jacob Owolabi and sophomore Ryan Gard. The Owls also finished fourth in the distance medley with a team of Gard, Owolabi, Bucknell and junior Scott Zivick.

In the field, the Owls had decent efforts from freshman Kyle Martens in the high jump, as he finished eighth, while Chaney and sophomore Ugo Nduaguba finished eighth and ninth respectively in the long jump. Nduaguba also took first in the triple jump with a NCAA provisional qualifying mark of 15.44 meters.

Rice's pole vaulters also carried their load, although senior Jason Colwick failed to clear his starting height of 5.36 meters. Junior Chris Kato took first overall, while Whitham and freshman Blaine Bassler finished third and fourth, respectively.

Warren is confident that Colwick will be in top form for the NCAA indoor championships this weekend in College Station, Texas, where he will be the No. 1 seed.

"The issue with his performance [last week] was his choice of pole," Warren said. "He can clear that height easily with the right pole. I think he'll do real well . he's got the ability to win."

Sophomore William Meyers did well at the LSU Last Chance Meet on March 6, throwing 16.91 meters and taking first at conference, while sophomore Clay Baker finished fourth.

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