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Friday, September 30, 2022 — Houston, TX

Youth movement carries cross country to first

By Jonathan Myers     9/23/10 7:00pm

The men's cross country team dominated the competition on the slightly damp Rice intramural fields last Friday at the 35th-annual Justin F. Cooper Memorial Rice Invitational, with four true freshmen finishing among the top eight Rice runners. Redshirt sophomore Gabe Cuadra led the way for the Owls once again by taking fourth place overall. Freshman John Cavallo followed nine seconds later, with redshirt junior Michael Trejo following in seventh place with a time of 17:52 minutes. Redshirt sophomore James Llamas followed one second behind and freshman Wyatt Doop, running unattached, turned in a time of 18:14 on the 5.6-kilometer course to round out the top five for Rice. Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) is thankful to have a group of young runners that have contributed so early in the season.

"I'm very pleased with them," Warren said. "A few weeks ago we couldn't even figure out which ones were going to contribute, and now Wyatt's earned a spot on the team even though he was running unattached this week."

Trejo is also pleased with the fluctuation among the top runners, hoping it will give the Owls an edge later in the season.

"As a team, I think we are lucky to have some variability among our top five scorers," Trejo said. "From our first two meets, there is definitely some friendly and positive competition between us.

"[The competition] is a great motivating and cohesive factor that will help us when competing in bigger meets against bigger schools, like [Oklahoma State University]."

Finishing up for the Owls were freshman Anthony Urbanelli, sophomore Sammy Abuhamra, freshman Travis Roberts and redshirt freshmen Alex Weinheimer and Anthony Lauriello. No Rice runner finished outside the top 30 runners and the top five runners paced the Owls to a total score of 36, which allowed them to return the favor to Lamar University, as Rice finished second to the Cardinals at the Johnny Morriss Invitational on Sept. 3. Following Lamar in third place was the University of Houston with 65 points. Houston Baptist University, Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M University finished fourth through sixth.

Despite the positives taken from the race, redshirt sophomore Matt Carey was unable to race for the second straight meet due to an illness that has affected his training. Warren will do his best to make sure that Carey is ready for the Conference USA Championship on Nov. 1.

"Matt will race next week at HBU and probably at a smaller meet as well after that," Warren said. "It's important to get him back to full strength to where he's comfortable."

For now, the Owls will turn their attention to the Cowboy Jamboree Invitational tomorrow hosted by OSU in Stillwater, Okla. The course will feature a mixture of flat and uneven terrain and will total eight kilometers, the longest race Rice has run all year.

Besides the physical preparation, Warren is also preparing some of the newcomers for the added distance mentally.

"The young guys' issue is that they haven't raced this far in a long time, if at all," Warren said. "If we race like the last two weeks we'll be okay. We've cut back this week unlike the previous weeks, so we should be rested. We need our team to be in good position after five kilometers but still have enough left for the last three kilometers."

Rice finished 13th at the meet last year, and will look to see how the team stands with some of the region's top squads. The Owls will look to their veterans to provide leadership at the beginning of the race and allow their younger teammates to feel comfortable enough with the course and distance.

Trejo understands the team's mentality going into this important benchmark race.

"Jon and the team recognize the OSU meet as our first real test," Trejo said. "The course is eight kilometers and it is run over a more real cross country terrain than we're used to in Houston. I think our team has gotten a feel for where we stand fitness-wise and I'm confident going into this meet that we can compete with some of these teams.

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