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T&F indoor season gets off to fast start at UH meet

Photo courtesy Rice Athletics

By Pavithr Goli     1/24/23 10:09pm

For the first time this year, both of Rice’s track and field teams were in action on the same weekend, competing at the University of Houston’s Robert Platt Invitational. The meet was the first of the indoor season for Rice’s men’s team and the second for the women’s team, which sent a few competitors to UH the previous weekend. Five Owls took gold over the weekend, and seven others medaled.

On the men’s side of the meet, the Owls took gold in two events. Senior Nick Hicks won the weight throw while junior Elian Ahmar won the shot put. While he placed second, junior Alexander Slinkman’s clearance of 18’01” this weekend ranked third all-time for indoor pole vault at Rice. 

In addition to acknowledging the strong showing by his team, head coach Jon Warren specifically highlighted Slinkman’s record performance. 

“Slinkman’s efforts deserve special attention,” Warren said  “The mark is, according to the announcer, No. 10 in the world, No. 9 in the NCAA, and ranks third all-time for indoor at Rice. It was a very nice way to start the season.”

Hicks, whose mark of 64’ 3.75” cleared the competition by nearly two feet, said he believes that he still has room for improvement. 

“It’s a good start to the season to come out and lead the conference,” Hicks said. “I have a lot more to improve on over the next few weeks before our indoor conference and national championship meets but I’m in a good place for sure. My goals for this season are to complete the three-peat in the weight at conference, and on a bigger scale get back to the National Championships and get First-Team All-American honors. I’ll be disappointed if I leave Rice without an All-American plaque to my name.”

The women’s team also had a strong weekend as well. The team had 18 top-ten finishes at the meet with ten runners placing in the top five. Junior Kennedy Gamble won the 60-meter dash and placed third in the 200-meter dash. Junior Tara Simpson-Sullivan won the weight throw and junior Alyssa Balandran won the mile, joining three other Owls in the top ten of the event. 

According to head coach Jim Bevan, the team overall showed improvement at this meet but some individual performances stand out above the rest.

“Made lots of progress this week,” Bevan said. “Kennedy [Gamble] is knocking on the door of our school record and Tara’s [Simpson-Sullivan] mark puts her [at] 14th in the country. Alyssa Balandran opened with the fastest time she has ever opened with for the win in the mile. [Sophomore] Savannah Simms had a lifetime best in the triple jump finishing third and [senior] Caitlin Wosika also had a lifetime best in the 3000 finishing second. We made steps in the right direction today, we need to keep staying the course.”

Gamble is proud of her fast times at the start of the season and attributes her great start to the intense training prior to the season.

“I’m really happy to start the season with some fast times,” Gamble said. “I had my fastest season opener and followed that performance up with even faster races this past weekend. The hard fall training we had is really starting to pay off, and I hope to keep this momentum going as the track season progresses.”

Both the men’s and women’s track and field teams will compete again on Friday, Jan. 27. when they go to the University of Houston for the Houston Invitational.

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