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Track and field claims four titles at indoor conference meet

By Michael Byrnes     2/20/19 12:53am

Three Owls came away from last weekend’s Conference USA Indoor Track Championships with individual titles, and the men’s team added a relay title as well. Overall, the women’s team finished fourth out of 13 teams, while the men placed fifth of 10.

Junior jumper Michelle Fokam highlighted Rice’s competition on the women’s side. She finished first in the long jump and placed second in the triple jump with an indoor school-record mark of 13.31 meters. Fokam’s long jump title was her third in the past two seasons, after she won the event in both the indoor and outdoor conference championship meets last year. Her triple jump mark also places her No. 8 in the country among all NCAA qualifiers. Fokam said that this year’s award was particularly special to her.

“All of my conference championships mean a lot to me but this year has truly meant the most because of all I’ve done this semester,” Fokam said. “I have had to balance my position in the student athlete advisory committee, being a director of the athlete PAA program, handling all my classes and I was even out for a month with an injury I was nursing. I’ve been a part of so much and dealt with some injuries but even with all the things I had going on I was still able to stay consistent and keep my streak alive.”

On the men’s team, senior runner Reagan Olguin was the star of the show, winning an individual title in the 800-meter race with a time of 1:51.66 and also running the 1200-meter leg of Rice’s first-place distance medley relay. The 800-meter win was the first individual conference title of Olguin’s Rice career. According to Olguin, the race didn’t pan out exactly as he had expected, but he still managed to keep his composure.

“I was thinking that I would stay in second or third for the majority of the race and then win with a big kick,” Olguin said. “But instead, I was in the lead from the beginning, waiting for someone to try and take it from me. I just stayed in front maintaining a smooth rhythm ... I saw on the screen that with about 250 meters to go a blue jersey was getting close to me so I picked up the pace a bit. Then with 150 meters to go, I [sprinted] and won.” 

Freshman pole vaulter Natan Rivera picked up Rice’s final individual first-place finish with a mark of 5.18 meters. Though the second-place finisher also cleared the same mark, Rivera won because he cleared all three heights (4.88, 5.03 and 5.18 meters) on his first try. It was the highest mark Rivera had ever cleared on his first vault. Rivera then had three tries at clearing 5.28 meters, which would have been a personal best. He said that although he didn’t clear the bar, his preparation and coaching are to credit for his success at the conference meet.

“I was really close in my last attempt, but unfortunately did not clear the bar,” Rivera said. “[But] I think my coaches did a great job to prepare the pole vault team for this meet. I think being a freshman makes [the win] important but for me, I don’t care about that. I was more [focused] on getting the win no matter the circumstances. 

Junior sprinter Hannah Jackson just missed out on repeating as the 200-meter conference indoor champion, getting edged out at the finish line by 0.02 seconds. Nonetheless, her 23.44-second time was her personal record for the 2019 indoor season. According to Jackson, though she was having some injury troubles, the race gave her confidence heading into the outdoor season. 

“Before the race my hamstrings were giving me some trouble, so honestly I am glad I was able to race at all, and even happier that I was able to PR for this indoor season,” Jackson said. “The race was a big motivator for outdoor. I feel this outdoor [season] is going to be a good one, and as long as I can keep my body injury-free, I hope to have a huge PR.”

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