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Friday, September 30, 2022 — Houston, TX

Online only: Men finish 16th among tough competition

By Jonathan Myers     10/8/09 7:00pm

To beat the best, you have to play, or in the case of the men's cross country team, run, against the best. The Owls did exactly that last Saturday at the 73rd Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla., facing the likes of 13th-ranked College of William and Mary, second-ranked Northern Arizona University and the host, fourth-ranked Oklahoma State University. Rice finished an impressive 13th out of 23 teams, led by a 72nd-place finish from senior Simon Bucknell. Sophomore Michael Trejo was two seconds behind Bucknell to finish 75th, and redshirt freshmen Gabe Cuadra and Matt Carey and senior Scott Zivick rounded out the top five for the Owls.

Head Coach Jon Warren said he had a good feeling about the team's overall performance, despite some health issues.

"I thought we had four guys run pretty well," Warren said. "I think James Llamas was a little sick going in, but he'd be up with Matt and Gabe if he was healthy. Even without him running well, the team was a little ahead of where I'd thought we'd be at this point, and if he's there we're well ahead.

"Michael and Simon are doing better at this point in the year than they were at conference last year. We should be in good shape come the conference championship."

Bucknell also commented upon the team's performance relative to last year's squad, which finished third at the conference meet.

"It's hard to compare this team to last year, as nearly half this team didn't race last year," Bucknell said. "But we have compared some times to how we were running last year, and we seem to be ahead considering how tough the course was at Oklahoma State this weekend. We just need a fifth runner to really step up, so we have a tight-knit pack."

Warren had previously mentioned Zivick's physical issues, which in his eyes have not improved as much as they would hope.

"It's not going too well with Scott's [inflammation]," Warren said. "He's physically capable of being much farther up than he's racing. We could have been maybe one or two teams further up if he and James were fully healthy. Scott's capable of being with or ahead of Michael and Simon."

The prize for first place went to Northern Arizona University, who vaulted to second in the U.S. Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association rankings after being led to victory by individual winner Jordan Chipangama.

Even though Rice may not have earned a top-10 finish, the Owls followed their plan for the race by running in a smart manner, something that is critical to do in a crowded race with twenty-three teams.

Warren said he was pleased with the way Rice handled the tough course, especially once the starting gun went off.

"They did a great job starting," Warren said. "What we had laid out with Simon and Michael, they were right on their pace and able to just barrel past people to the end. That's a very difficult course and it played well into the hands of running smart. Running sub-25 minutes is definitely in the cards for Simon and Michael at conference, maybe even by a significant amount."

Bucknell was also happy with his performance, noting that this was only his second race of the year.

"I am pleased with the progress I have made so far," Bucknell said. "It is always a little difficult for me to adjust early season with the heat. But I am slowly settling into my races, and to be leading the team so far is a good feeling."

The Owls will now have a quick turnaround from Saturday's meet, finishing off the regular season today at the Houston Baptist University Invitational. The team will be looking to run an up-tempo race in order to get in a solid workout, and they predict the competition will not be as stiff as it was on Saturday.

Warren hopes to see different runners contribute to the Owls' performance this weekend.

"At HBU, we'll be looking to see if one of the runners on the outside looking in now can step up," Warren said. "We had multiple nationally-ranked teams at Oklahoma State, so it was at a high level with good competition. HBU will be significantly smaller.

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