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Thursday, May 23, 2024 — Houston, TX

Rice Track & Field throw themselves to the top

Photo courtesy Rice Athletics

By Pavithr Goli     4/11/23 11:47pm

The Rice Owls men’s and women’s track and field continued to put together a strong outdoor season this past weekend when they traveled to San Diego to compete in the Triton Invitational. The events, which were only for throwers, saw the women’s team record four top-five finishes while the men’s team ended the meet with five top-10 finishes. 

On the women’s side of the event, junior Tara Simpson-Sullivan claimed the hammer throw title with a distance of 64.52 meters, her longest of the outdoor season. In the javelin throw, freshman Mckyla Van der Westhuizen took second place in the college portion (and third overall) after throwing for 53.27 meters, her second-longest this outdoor season. 

In addition, senior Erna Gunnarsdottir finished fifth overall (and fourth in the college portion) in the shot put, recording a distance of 16.96 m, tying her outdoor season high in the event. Junior Morgan Fey rounded out the top-five finishes of the women’s throwing team when she finished fifth in the discus throw with a distance of 45.41 m. Women’s head coach Jim Bevan said he believes that his team did a great job this past weekend and is excited for the rest of the season. 

“It was a great meet for throwers and I am so glad we could compete,” Bevan said. “[Simpson-Sullivan] winning is a very big deal as she beat some very good throwers. For [Van der Westhuizen], it was a great learning experience in the scheme of her development. [Gunnarsdottir] competed very well as did [Julie Perez] and [Fey].  They are a great group and the best group of throwers in our conference by far. We are on the right track to having an outstanding season. “

The men’s throwing team also had a strong performance this past weekend. Junior Elian Ahmar won the college portion of the shot put while placing second overall. His throw of 17.67 meters was his longest throw of the outdoor season, just 0.33 meters less than his personal best. Ahmar said he was proud of his showing in California and hopes to break the school record for the shot put before he leaves the team. 

“I was really excited about my performance this weekend,” Ahmar said. “I hit a small slump after finishing the indoor season and this meet provided a huge confidence boost. I’m fairly confident my best throw from the meet will qualify me for the NCAA regional championship. Also, I want to break the school record, which is 18.58 meters.”

The Owls had two top-three finishers in the discus throw. Junior Sam Welsh’s 62.04 meters discus throw led him to finish first in the college portion and sixth overall and junior Samuel Woodley ranked third in the college portion and twelfth overall after throwing the discus 57.56 meters. 

Men’s head coach Jon Warren was very proud of the throwers’ performance this past weekend and specifically highlighted the top results from the discus throwers. 

“I was very happy with how the throwers did in San Diego this weekend,” Warren wrote in an email to the Thresher. “Amongst many other good things, Sam Welsh launched a season-best throw that ranks him [sixth] in the NCAA right now.  He was closely followed by Sam Woodley (PR’ed), Nick Hicks and Jorge Hinojosa in the discus who all are in the top [eight] in C-USA right now and this is a very good discus conference.”

In the hammer throw, three of the Rice throwers made the top five in the college portion of the rankings. Junior Shaun Kerry finished the event second in the college portion and fourth overall, throwing for 63.55 meters. Sophomore Cal Abdulky followed with a fourth-place finish in college and sixth overall, and senior Nick Hicks finished fifth place and seventh overall. 

Warren, encouraged by the performance of his throwers, said he is looking forward to how the rest of the season will pan out.

“In the end, I am pleased with how this whole group did and I am excited to see where it goes as the regular season winds down and the championship season gets going,” Warren said.

Both the men’s and women’s throwers look to build upon their season this upcoming weekend when they travel to Azusa, California to compete in the Bryan Clay Invite hosted by Azusa Pacific University. 

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