Men win Johnny Morriss Invite
The men's cross country team knew it was going to have to rely on its newcomers for success this season. It just didn't expect their ascension to come about so quickly. The youths on the squad served up an important victory at the Johnny Morriss Invitational last Friday, as sophomore Michael Trejo and redshirt freshman Gabe Cuadra teamed with senior Scott Zivick to lead Rice to a first-place finish on the University of Houston intramural fields. Rice's 31 points defeated Houston's 43, Sam Houston State University's 58 and Houston Baptist University's 81.
The young legs paced the Owls, and Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) said he was especially pleased with Trejo's solidification as leader of the team.
"Trejo ran this race with confidence, which was exactly what we needed him to do," Warren said. "His performance shows that he is adjusting into his role very well."
Trejo was the first Owl across the finish line, taking third place, while Cuadra and Zivick took sixth and eighth, respectively. Rounding out the scorers for Rice were redshirt freshmen Matt Carey and James Llamas, finishing in 12th and 14th, respectively. Sophomore Greg King rounded out the runners for Rice, although freshman Sammy Abuhamra and junior John Buck each ran as unattached runners, thus not counting for scoring purposes.
Senior Simon Bucknell did not run Friday, continuing a trend Warren has followed for the past few years in order to avoid potential injury to Bucknell early in the season. Bucknell did not race at last year's Johnny Morriss Invitational, and did not make his first appearance of the season until the Penn State National last October.
"Even though Simon has been here a few years, I still like to wean him into the heat," Warren said. "He most likely will race at the Rice Invitational."
The outcome of the race is especially meaningful for the team as it enters the season with several uncertainties concerning the identities of the top contributors on the team. Warren said he felt the positive implications from an early victory would benefit the team in the long run.
"As I mentioned last time, this team is starting out as one big question mark," Warren said. "This meet helped answer a few of those questions. That being said, the team did exceed my expectations."
The Owls were also aided by the fact that three of Houston's top four runners had succumbed to swine flu and also had to rely on some of their younger runners to carry the team, with sophomores Derrick Joe and Stephan Keller attempting to add their efforts to the scoring for the Cougars. Given these circumstances, and the fact that the race was early in the season, Warren was cautious not to overestimate this race's importance in terms of garnering at-large points for NCAA National Championship consideration.
"This win is similar to a non-conference win for basketball," Warren said. "It is a big deal to win, but we know that for the season to be successful we have to compete well at the end."
The Owls will take this weekend off and will run next in a meet when they host the 34th Annual Rice Invitational, which will be held on campus Sept. 19. Last year's rendition was cancelled due to the imminent landfall of Hurricane Ike that weekend.
Rice will face some of the same teams it competed against a week ago, with Houston and Sam Houston State most likely running at the Rice Invitational. "We will lower the mileage a bit the week of that race and not too much else," Warren said.
Checking up on the results from Rice's conference rivals, the University of Tulsa finished second at the Hurricane Cross Country Festival in Tulsa, Okla. The Golden Hurricane competed in six dual meets, defeating the University of Oklahoma, the University of Texas, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University, while dropping races against Oklahoma State University and Oral Roberts University. The University of Texas at El Paso placed first at the Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., with senior All- American Nicodemus Ng'etich taking second place overall. The Miners are expecting to add two runners to the roster this week in an effort to boost their roster to nine runners. Like the Owls, the Miners are attempting to get contributions from the younger members of their team, as four out of the seven current members are freshmen.
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