Women's Cross Country primed for promising year
The start of the 2012 women's cross country season begins today with the Houston Invitational. Last season was solid, but it that fell short of immense preseason expecations that included the possibility of a first-place finish in Conference USA. The team still finished strong in third place behind tough competition from Southern Methodist University and the University of Tulsa at the 2011 C-USA Cross Country Championships,
led by the senior trio of Becky Wade, Allison Pye and Halsey Fowler. Wade came in fifth place at the championships, followed by Pye in sixth. Fowler finished the race in 17th place out of 92 runners. Wade and Pye were both named to the C-USA AllConference First Team, and Fowler was awarded recognition in the Third Team.
The team went on to the NCAA South Central Regional in Waco, Texas with high aspirations However, the women missed a third-place finish by one point and were thus unable to advance further. However, Wade was able to qualify individually, going on to finish in 23rd out of 254 to end her decorated career as an Owl.
Entering the 2012 season, the team has lost three of its top five runners from last year in Wade, Pye, and Fowler. With the departure of these three athletes, the team must look to seniors Lindsay Miller and Farah Madanay to pave the way for Rice as last year's seniors did. Senior Heather Olson and sophomore Allie Schaich will also be counted on to play crucial roles.
It will be tough to step into the shoes of last year's top runners, but the outlook seems bright, thanks in no small part to the addition of a remarkably talented freshman class headed by Eleanor Wardleworth and Cali Roper.
Roper, a Texas native, won the 2011 Foot Locker Cross Country Championship in the Seeded Girls division of the South region, while Wardleworth has brought her considerable talent to Rice from Australia to help the Owls contend this season.
After the Houston Invitational the team will compete in the 37th Annual Justin F. Cooper Memorial Rice Invitational at on the Rice Intramural Fields on Sept. 14.
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On Thursday, sophomore distance runner Grace Forbes proved to the rest of the country what her Conference USA opponents and Rice teammates have known for years – she’s one of the fastest runners in the country. Competing at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore. for the second consecutive year, Forbes, took second place in the 10,000-meter, the best finish by an Owl at the NCAAs in over a decade. According to Forbes, who missed the indoor season and the first month of the outdoor season due to extreme fatigue later diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder, the result was a testament to the work she’s put in to overcome an incredibly challenging year.
Five Owls will be heading to next week’s NCAA outdoor track and field championships, after qualifying at the NCAA West Preliminaries which ran May 25 through 28. Headlining the meet for Rice was sophomore distance-runner Grace Forbes, who took first place in the 10,000 meters for the second consecutive year. Forbes will be joined in Eugene, Ore., by sophomore thrower Tara Simpson-Sullivan, junior thrower Erna Gunnarsdottir, senior thrower James McNaney and sophomore vaulter Alex Slinkman. Jon Warren, head coach of the men’s track and field program, said that he was impressed not only by the five qualifiers, but by all 13 Owls who participated over the course of the week in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Conference USA outdoor track and field championships saw Rice’s men’s team place third with 121 points — their best conference championship performance since 2005 — and the women’s team place fifth with 88 points. According to men’s head coach Jon Warren, he was proud to see the work his team put in all season be on full display at the meet.