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Simpson-Sullivan, Slinkman break conference records at C-USAs

Photo courtesy Conference USA

By Pavithr Goli     2/21/23 11:56pm

This past weekend, both of Rice’s track and field teams traveled to Birmingham, Ala. to compete at the Conference USA Indoor Championships, where several athletes broke Rice and C-USA records and many others recorded personal bests. The women’s team, who had its best showing in three years, placed second in the conference and took gold in three events. The men’s team also had a strong performance, winning four events and placing third overall.

On the women’s side, the Owls were led by junior thrower Tara Simpson-Sullivan, who broke Rice and C-USA records when she won the weight throw with a distance of 22.18 meters. Senior thrower Erna Gunnarsdottir won the shot put with a personal best distance of 17.92 meters. The Owls also won the distance medley, with a first-place time of 11:34:36 run by freshman Amelie Attenborough, sophomore Savannah Simms, junior Taigen Hunter-Galvan, and junior Alyssa Balandran. 

Simpson-Sullivan was surprised by how well she performed on her first try and hopes to break the Rice record again. 

“I threw my furthest on my first throw, which is very unlike me, it was supposed to be a smooth easy first throw to secure first place,” Simpson-Sullivan. “I’m happy to break my own Rice record, but I do hope to break it again before I graduate. The same goes for the C-USA record, however, there’s no chance to break that record again for me, as this was the last indoor conference [meet] in the C-USA.”

Head coach Jim Bevan was proud of his team’s performance over the weekend and is excited about the upcoming outdoor season. 

“Overall, we scored more than we were seeded and we pulled together and competed hard for each other,” Bevan said. “We are looking forward to outdoor track but still have two throwers that should be going on to Nationals.”

The men’s team also had a strong performance in Birmingham, with their third-place finish a program best since 2015. Junior Alexander Slinkman followed up on his strong regular season performances with a record-setting pole vault this past weekend. Slinkman won the pole vault with a C-USA record height of 5.39 meters. Senior Nick Hicks won the weight throw event for the third straight year, and junior Elian Ahmar took gold in the shot put. The men’s distance medley team, which consisted of junior Elliot Metcalf, freshman Dominik Skorjanc, junior Ronen Oosthuizen and freshman Gus Gannon, also took first place with a time of 9:58.01. Gannon also set a Rice record with his 8:03.61 time in the 3000-meter event, earning himself Freshman of the Meet honors. 

According to head coach Jon Warren, the team had a strong day on the first day of the meet and did well enough on day two to get onto the podium. 

“It’s not often that we get so many guys on the podium on day one and Alexander Slinkman setting a new conference record is just the icing on the cake,” Warren said. “[Sunday] had some twists and turns that fell mostly our way and the end result was a hard-fought third-place team finish. This group was exceptional and I hope we can keep that momentum going outdoors.”

This meet marked the end of the indoor track and field season for most athletes on both teams, with most now shifting their preparation for the outdoor season. However, the Owls who qualify will compete at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. on March 10 and 11. 

The outdoor season starts on March 16, when the Owls compete at the University of Houston in the Kirk Baptiste Spring Break Invite.

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