Track teams travel to Austin for Texas Relays (Men's)
The past two weeks held some mundane results for the men's track team, but there was one result that left everyone, if not speechless, then at least in awe. First, the typical. Over the last few weeks, the Owls stayed in the Lone Star State to compete in the Victor Lopez Bayou Classic, held at Rice Track Stadium, and the 82nd Annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in Austin, Texas. During a fifth-place finish at the Bayou Classic, Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) spotted some star performances, as senior Simon Bucknell took first place in the 1500-meter run and freshman Collin Shurbet finished third in 400-meter hurdles.
"Simon won the 1500 meters in really windy conditions and ran pretty fast; his second-fastest time ever," Warren said. "Shurbet did well on the hurdles, especially in those conditions, racing national-level guys from the University of Michigan."
Senior Brett Olson led the way for the Owls in the steeplechase, finishing third, while freshman Jack Spinks, making his first appearance for Rice after being injured during the indoor season, jumped 6' 4.75" to take fourth in the high jump.
Rice then made the drive to the state capital to compete against some of the nation's best track and field competition in the Texas Relays, where the spectacular was on display. Junior Jason Colwick, already known across the nation as one of the country's top collegiate pole vaulters, displayed his knack for breaking school records in posting a vault of 18' 9". But this mark was not just is a new school record or a new Myers Stadium record - it was also the second highest vault in the world this year.
Colwick trails only Steve Hooker, an Australian who captured the gold medal in the pole vault at the 2008 Olympics, by only 0.23 meters for the best mark this year. Colwick's vault last week would have been good enough to earn him the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics. He was also named C-USA Athlete of the Week on Tuesday.
In addition to Colwick's feats, sophomore Ugo Nduaguba shone for the Owls, taking first in the B-section (the lower of two sections) of the triple jump. Nduaguba's leap of 15.53 meters is one of the top marks of the young season, and is currently 11th-best in the nation.
Needless to say, Warren was encouraged by the performances by some of his top athletes.
"This week went a little bit better [than the previous], even though we didn't run everybody," Warren said. "Obviously Jason's setting a school record and a Myers Stadium record, and being No. 2 in the world is a big deal."
Nduaguba hopes to join Colwick as one of the Owls vying for a berth in the NCAA National Championships.
"In order to compete for a spot in the national meet, I hope to stay focused by getting more explosive in my training," Nduaguba said. "I will get a better sense of my jump rhythm, which will help me hold my jump phases longer and will eventually help me to jump better."
But Rice's big guns were not the only ones to step up. Bucknell fed off the momentum from his effort at the Bayou Classic to race to fourth in the 1600 meter run.
Warren knew Bucknell had it in him to finish even higher had it not been for a near-accident.
"Fourth was good, but if he hadn't stumbled, he could have done better than he did," Warren said. "He's got a great kick, so he'll continue to do well."
Spinks also continued to bounce back from his hamstring injury by finishing 14th in the high jump with a height of 2.00 meters.
Warren said he was pleased with Spinks's recovery in the past two meets.
"That was a nice meet for him, being really only his second meet, and he's on the right path to jumping pretty high," Warren said. "We just to have to get him used to the high bar, and jumping over two meters is definitely possible for him."
Rice's sprinters continued to work their way to running at the top of their ability, with junior John Welch finishing 41st overall in the 100 meters with a time of 11.02 seconds, despite finishing with spring football practice just days before. Warren said he expects him and freshman Sam McGuffie to come through for the Owls at the conference meet.
"They may be the fastest guys on the team," Warren said. "McGuffie, hopefully, will be able to long jump and high jump, so we can use his versatility."
Junior Philip Adam also impressed with his eighth-place finish in the decathlon, which landed him the 10th-highest score in the nation.
Some Owls, including heptathlon athletes freshman Clayton Chaney and sophomore Connor Hayes, will travel to Los Angeles, Calif. to compete in the Rafer Johnson/JJK Invitational hosted by the University of California-Los Angeles this weekend, while the rest will get a well-deserved break.
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