Wosika, Slinkman highlight strong weekend at Texas Relays
This past weekend, while most Rice students watched or participated in bike relays, several Rice track and field athletes took the stage at the Texas Relays in Austin. Competing against some of the best athletes in the nation, several Owls finished top-ten in their events, highlighted by golds from junior vaulter Alexander Slinkman and junior distance runner Caitlin Wosika. Men’s head coach Jon Warren believes that, despite only sending a few athletes, the team still performed well.
“As we typically do, we took a limited number of athletes to the Texas Relays, and I thought they did quite well,” Warren said. “Overall, we were pleased with the effort and results from Texas Relays.”
On the first day of the meet, Slinkman won the B section of the men’s pole vault with a 5.51-meter jump. Slinkman’s jump matched both his indoor and outdoor pole vault personal best, which is the same height that earned him tenth place at the NCAA indoor championships. According to Warren, Slinkman won the event despite inclement weather conditions being against him.
“The jumping conditions were rough — windy with some light rain off and on — and Slinkman handled it like a pro,” Warren said.
Thursday night saw Wosika take first place in the 10,000 meters with a time of 35:57.19, while senior teammate Lina Spjut took second.
In discussing his runners, women’s head coach Jim Bevan was happy at the high level they are performing as the season progresses despite it being relatively early in the season.
“[Junior thrower] Tara [Simpson-Sullivan] finished seventh in the hammer and is rounding into form as the season is progressing,” Bevan said. “[Sophomore] Savannah Simms finished just a hair off of her personal-best in the 400 hurdles in very windy conditions.”
Back on the men’s side, Junior Sam Welsh placed fifth in the discus throw this weekend after throwing it 60.82 meters, a mark that was just 0.88 below his personal outdoor best for the event. The Harvard transfer’s performance in Austin was another strong addition to his impressive outdoor season thus far, which has seen him finish first in discus at both the Victor Lopez Classic and the Kirk Baptiste Spring Break Invitational.
According to Welsh, he embraced this weekend’s opportunity to compete against the best and saw the competition as a preview of what to expect at the NCAA nationals.
“I’m happy to have another competition over 60 meters and to have a fairly consistent series of throws,” Welsh said. “I was leading the competition after the first three rounds and was hoping for a big throw in the final rounds to maintain my lead, but it was not enough to win the [competition].”
The only other Owl to finish in the top five on the weekend was senior thrower Erna Gunnarsdottir, who took fifth in the shot put to close the meet on Saturday. Rice’s 800-meter relay also took fourth on the women’s side.
Bevan was impressed with Gunnarsdottir’s performance against tough competition and the relay team’s best performance in years.
“Erna finished fifth in a loaded shot put, all those that finished ahead of her are all-Americans,” Bevan said. “Our 4x800 [relay] finished 4th with a very credible time of 8:44. This is the fastest 4x800 we have run in twenty years.”
Reflecting on these performances, Warren said he’s satisfied with the state of his team right now.
“I think we are close to where we want to be for early April,” Warren said. “We will soon be entering the prime competition time and, even though class expectations are starting to heat up as well, I expect that team to do really well.”
Up next for the Owls is the Cameron Burrell Alumni Invite at the University of Houston on April 7.
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