Men's cross country cruises to title at HBU
In facing any tough situation, preparation is key. For the men's cross country team, the races leading up to the Conference USA Championship on Nov. 1 are important to get a feel for how they run as a team. If the Owls' performance in the fourth-annual Houston Baptist University/Puma Cross Country Invitational on Oct. 8 is any indication, they are well prepared for the Conference USA Championship to be held at the Indian Springs Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. Rice took home first place in the meet with five runners finishing among the top 10. Redshirt junior Michael Trejo was named Conference USA male cross country athlete of the week for his fourth-place finish, besting freshman teammate John Cavallo by two seconds. The true freshman assault continued with Wyatt Doop and Travis Roberts finishing seventh and 10th, respectively, with redshirt sophomore James Llamas sandwiched between them in eighth place. Rounding out the runners for the Owls were freshman Anthony Urbanelli and sophomores Sammy Abuhamra and Anthony Lauriello. Rice did an excellent job of running as a pack, with only 1:04 separating Trejo and Lauriello.
Notably missing was redshirt sophomore Gabe Cuadra, who pulled a hamstring in the days leading up to the meet and did not compete. Alfred Kite from Northwood University took first place overall with a time of 14:50. Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) seemed content with the Owls' performance.
"We did a good job out there and I was happy with John and Wyatt's ability to stay with Michael," Warren said. "We came in expecting to perform well and be up at the top and we were able to do that."
Despite Cuadra's injury, he and fellow redshirt sophomore Matt Carey took part in a local five-kilometer road race to prepare themselves, especially Carey, who has been nagged by health issues throughout the semester, for the conference championship. Warren commented on Carey's availability for the conference championship.
"We'll have him be one of our nine given his experience from last year," Warren said. "I'm confident he can contribute and make us better."
Several members of the team, mainly Carey and the collection of freshmen, attempted to race in a eight-kilometer road race in Austin, Texas this past weekend but withdrew when the distance turned out to be only five kilometers. This would have helped the Owls out with their level of comfort with the longer distance given that the regional meet held Nov. 13 will entail that distance.
The main task for Warren now is to evaluate his 11 runners, seven of whom are either redshirt freshmen or true freshmen, to decide who will be able to attend the conference championship. Nine runners will be allowed to travel and race, with the usual top-five runners counting for placing and the sixth and seventh runners serving as possible tiebreakers. The eighth- and ninth-place runners will not be considered in any tiebreaker positions.
With the Owls having four meets under their belts, Warren has plenty to look at in terms of who will be making the trip north.
"We've got a good situation here in that it's a tough process deciding who to leave here," Warren said. "We'll take Michael, Gabe, James and Matt, assuming Matt's ready to run by then, and then I'll have to take into account our workouts at the end of this week and next week."
Rice will taper off their training starting next week, and Warren should have an idea a few days before the team leaves tomorrow morning as to who he wants representing Rice.
"Right now, we've got those last spots to play with and I'll probably pick guys that have a higher potential during a race, as opposed to someone who has little fluctuation in their runs," Warren said. "If we have one or two guys that are those more mercurial types flame out, we've still got our other seven with our four upperclassmen."
Looking back at the four meets this week, it becomes a little clearer as to who are somewhat logical choices to fill those last five spots. Cavallo has finished second among all Owls in two meets, so he should be awarded a spot along with Roberts, who has shown to be a reliable sixth man for Rice on average. Redshirt freshman Alex Weinheimer has also proved his mettle despite not racing in the HBU Invitational, also averaging a sixth-place finish on the team. Doop will most likely be in the mix for finishing fifth on the team, so he will most likely be included among the nine. The final spot will most likely come down to Lauriello and Urbanelli, with the edge going to Lauriello because of his seniority as well as his higher potential for running a race that will count toward the Owls' total, such as his fifth-place finish at the Cowboy Jamboree on Sept. 25. Either way, the competition will be stiff with the University of Tulsa and the University of Texas-El Paso.
"Tulsa and UTEP are once again at the top," Warren said. "Tulsa's just got so much depth, and they do a great job with their runners. UTEP has got a lot of experienced Kenyans, so they will be ready to go as well.
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