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Women’s Track & Field places fourth at C-USA Indoor Championships behind Forbes’s record day


Courtesy Conference USA

By Daniel Schrager     2/23/21 9:10pm

The Rice Women’s track and field team placed No. 4 out of the 12 teams at the Conference USA Indoor Track and Field Championships over the weekend in their first meet of the season. The Owls finished the meet with a total of 75.50 points, 33.50 shy of first place, the University of Southern Mississippi. Sophomore distance runner Grace Forbes stole the show for the Owls, setting a school and meet record in the one-mile run, and scoring more points than any other participant over the weekend. 

Forbes, who placed first in both the mile and the 3,000 meter, was one of two Owls to earn an individual gold, along with junior shot putter Erna Gunnarsdóttir. The Owls also took first place in the distance medley relay. After the meet, head coach Jim Bevan said he was proud of how the team competed.

“I was exceptionally happy with our competitiveness, spirit and performance this weekend,” Bevan said. “We had a few personal bests this weekend, as well as many [athletes] that had bests [for] their first meet [of] a season.”

Forbes completed the mile-run in 4:37.53, breaking the previous meet record of 4:39.61, and beating the No. 2 finisher by nearly 24 seconds. It is the No. 11 fastest mark in the NCAA this season. The record-breaking mile is the latest in a growing list of accomplishments for Forbes who was named an NCAA Indoor All-American last year as a freshman. But according to Forbes, the record wasn’t even on her mind going into the race. Due to the winter storm that affected much of Texas last week, Forbes said that her routine had been thrown out of whack.

“Going into this meet I was unsure of what I was capable of, since this week had been so hectic,” Forbes said. “Due to the storm, I had been without water or power, and I hadn’t been able to sleep in my own bed for three days before the competition, so I was having a very hard time recovering from this week’s workouts.”

According to Forbes, because of these setbacks, she wasn’t expecting to be at her best.

“Coach Bevan and I talked and decided that I would not be racing for fast times this meet but instead try to place as well as possible, in order to conserve energy,” Forbes said. “But the school record came rather organically, and it was quite surprising to me.”

While Forbes was the only Owl to medal in an individual track event, a number of others just missed the podium. Sophomore Justice Coutee-McCullum took No. 4 in the 60 meter hurdles, while freshman Taigen Hunter-Galvan took No. 4 in the 800 meter. Meanwhile, freshman Eliza Kraule took No. 5 in the pentathlon. According to Kraule, while balancing each of the different events of the pentathlon can be difficult, she was able to succeed by focusing on one event at a time.

“There are so many things that can happen over five different events,” Kraule said. “I try to focus on each individual event to not get overwhelmed. When I’m done with one event, I don’t analyze what I could have done better, I just move forward and focus on doing my best in the next one.”

Highlighted by Gunnarsdóttir’s shot put, a number of Owls also put up strong showings in the field portion of the meet. Gunnarsdóttir put up a personal-best shot put of 16.95 meters, topping her previous best of 16.19 meters with a mark that ranks No. 9 in the NCAA this year. The only other Owl aside from Gunnarsdóttir to place in a field event was sophomore thrower Tara Simpson-Sullivan, who earned third place in the weight throw. Redshirt-freshman Ginnie Okafor placed No. 5 in the triple jump with a personal best of 12.11 meters.

The meet capped a challenging week of preparation for the Owls, who hadn’t competed in a meet since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although they had scheduled a meet for last weekend in order to prepare for the conference championships, it was canceled due to the weather. As training for the meet ramped up, last week’s weather disrupted the team’s preparation as well. Bevan said that he was proud of how his team was able to adjust to these difficult circumstances.

“It had been one entire year since we had competed. One year,” Bevan said. “On top of that we had bad weather in Houston for almost ten days leading up to the meet, some days not able to practice. We performed exceptionally well, I thought.”

According to Bevan, while the team needs more experience at meets, he is confident that they are headed in the right direction.

“We've got a great team and great group,” Bevan said. “We just need some more meets under our belts.”

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