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Almost four years ago now, my friend Jocelyn Wright, fellow O-Week group member and soon-to-be assistant news editor, and I wandered upstairs to the Thresher office during the activity fair. Both of us had aspirations of journalism greatness, she via hard-hitting news stories and I covering the greats of the Rice baseball diamond. We ran into Evan Mintz (Hanszen '08) and Stephen Whitfield (Sid Rich '08), then-executive editor and editor-in-chief, who were not-so-frantically beginning work on that year's O-Week edition. They ushered us into the office, equally eager to see fresh faces and skeptical of our capabilities.
This spring has not been an easy one for the women's track and field team. Plagued by injury after injury, much more of the team has spent time in recovery mode, instead of training mode, than Head Coach Jim Bevan would have liked. Despite all this adversity, the always-competitive Owls have once again found a way to return to peak form just in time for the conference meet.
In a span of roughly 48 hours last weekend, the women's track and field team set an awe-inspiring 22 new season-best or career-best marks at competitions roughly 800 miles apart. Rice's distance runners traveled to Walnut, Calif., to compete at the Mt. SAC relays, an elite competition held in the ideal weather for distance running: cool and sunny Southern California. The rest of the squad headed to El Paso for ideal sprinting, throwing, jumping and vaulting weather: warm and dry West Texas.
Regardless of how hard a team trains and how prepared each athlete is for her event, one element of an outdoor track meet is always left to chance: the weather.
UConn freshman Shabazz Napier soars above Kentucky on Saturday during the Huskies' 56-55 semifinal win.
Unlike any other race in track and field, the steeplechase is like a high-speed obstacle course around the oval. During this 3,000-meter event, competitors cross 28 barriers comprised of 38 four inch by four inch blocks of wood and jump over a 12-foot water jump seven times. The steeplechase is adapted from the English horseracing event of the same name.
Women's track take eighth
Mark your calendars and let the countdown begin. Only seven days remain before - no, not spring break - the Conference USA Indoor Track and Field Championships. While spring break may seem particularly early this year, the women's track and field season feels that much shorter as well. From the first day of practice to the start of the conference meet, the track and field team will have just seven weeks of training under their belts since returning from winter break. In fact, the C-USA Championship will be only the fourth full-squad meet for the Owls of the season. However, now that the weather has climbed out of the mid-30s into the mid-70s, the team will have had two full weeks of uninterrupted training - knock on wood - in the lead-up to the meet.
For the first time in 11 years, the baseball team and the University of Texas will not tussle on the baseball diamond during the regular season. Agreements were in place to have a "home and home" played, with three games at Reckling Park in 2011 and three games at UT's Disch-Falk Field; however, UT backed out of the agreement in order to play a series against the University of Hawaii. While Owls fans may be disappointed by the omission, this season, it may work to Rice's advantage, as Texas is ranked higher (No. 6 in the nation according to BaseballAmerica.com) than any other squad the No. 18 Owls will face during the regular season.However, that does not mean that Rice's season will be free of challenges. Top 25-ranked foes on Rice's slate include Rice's season-opening opponent, No. 13 Stanford University, No. 16 Baylor University, No. 17 University of California, No. 19 University of Arizona, No. 21 Texas A&M University and No. 25 Tulane University.
With only two weeks remaining in the indoor track regular season, the women's team will travel to College Station, Texas this weekend to leave behind any remaining rust from winter break and shift into high gear just in time for conference. The team could not have picked a better meet for their final tune-up, so to speak, according to Head Coach Jim Bevan.
Be patient. Don't speed up too fast. Get to my mark. Focus on pushing my hands. Up in the air - push off the top. In the couple of seconds of every vault for senior pole vaulter Ari Ince, that's all that goes through her head. Clearly Ince has the quick steps to clear a bar 13-odd feet in the air down to a science.
Despite an abbreviated practice schedule before the meet and a depleted squad of competitors, the women's track team earned a second-place finish last Friday in their season-opening meet, the Leonard Hilton Invitational held at Yeoman Fieldhouse at the University of Houston. Rice's 80.5 points pushed the team a half-point ahead of third-place Houston and behind top-finisher University of Texas, who earned 177 points.Rice's accomplishment is especially impressive considering that Texas and Houston had both had squads in practice for more than a week before the event, while the Owls had just three days of full-squad practice. Additionally, the Owls were without five returners due to a variety of health issues: junior thrower Brittany Brown, junior middle-distance runner Keltie John, sophomore distance runner Halsey Fowler, freshman sprint-hurdler Michelle Young and senior jumper and hurdler Alex Gibbs.
The first week of classes: a week of limbo, where days are spent floating from class to class, picking and choosing which seminars will be interesting enough to make those three hours fly by and deliberating which lectures will be intriguing enough to encourage regular attendance. A week that brings the elusive luxury of being at college without any real responsibilities. A week to ease slowly back into the grind of papers, tests and projects. For some Rice students, however, the first week of classes looks very different. For example, the women's track team competes in its first meet today. The first week of classes for the track team was a final chance to tune up after a full semester and winter break spent training, because, come this afternoon, they are back in competition. Now it counts.
On Nov. 22, seniors Nicole Mericle and Britany Williams and juniors Becky Wade and Allison Pye reached the goal they had been training for for two years: compete at the national meet one final time. The group brought the team a 31st-place finish and Mericle finished higher than any Owl ever, at 46th overall. However, the results do not tell the whole story, as reaching the national meet was quite the accomplishment considering the past 24 months. Rewind to Nov. 24, 2008 - the last time these ladies raced together at Nationals. Pye and Wade were upstart sophomores, contributors to the team despite their youth. Mericle and Williams were juniors in the prime of their careers, both used to competing with the best week in and week out.
In her four years of cross country competition, senior Nicole Mericle has had her fair share of successes, but this past weekend, she cemented her place among the best of the best in the history of the sport at Rice, winning her second South Central Regional championship meet by finishing in 20:16 minutes. Mericle is the only Owl to ever win the meet, much less win it twice in her career. Her first Regional championship title came in 2008.
In eight days, the women's cross country team will run at the South Central Regional race. In other words, it's go time. Before the season, the team's goal was to qualify for the national meet. In order for that to happen, the team must place in the top two at Regionals. After last weekend's second-place finish in the Conference USA Championship meet behind No. 24 University of Tulsa, the team has to kick it into high gear between then and now, according to Head Coach Jim Bevan.
At the start of its season, the women's cross country team had three meets on its schedule that could have helped the team qualify for nationals. After the team's finish at the Pre-National Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind., the Owls now have only one shot remaining: the NCAA South Central Regional.The Owls placed 13th overall in the White Race after competing against 40 teams overall and nine ranked teams. Rice finished ahead of then-No.27 ranked University of Florida and traditional cross country powerhouses University of Georgia and University of Wisconsin.
While the state of Texas boasts wide-open spaces, down-home barbecue and the best two-steppin' this side of the Mississippi, the Lone Star State has yet to attract top-tier teams to collegiate cross country races. In search of stiff competition, the women's cross country team traveled to the Roy Griak Invitational hosted by the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, Minn. In Minnesota, the Owls ran against eight nationally ranked schools as well as regional foe Baylor University. Rice finished 12th overall in the field of 29 schools, led by senior Britany Williams' 32nd place finish in 21:51 minutes, beating Baylor, who placed 14th.
The women's cross country team is preparing for a fight back to nationals. In a season when Head Coach Jim Bevan can say that "this is by far the most competitive [Rice's] conference and region have ever been," the team is responding with a measure of competitiveness to match it. After a rain-out two weekends ago, the team finally began its season at the Rice Invitational on Friday evening. The team finished in first place, with senior Britany Williams placing first overall at 14:25 minutes. Sophomore Halsey Fowler, senior Nicole Mericle and junior Marie Thompson finished hundredths of seconds apart to capture third through fifth place. Sophomore Heather Olson placed eighth in 14:52 and junior Allison Pye grabbed ninth at 14:52.
Soccer Head Coach Chris Huston is leaving Rice, effective immediately, Director of Athletics Rice Greenspan announced on Wednesday. Huston had served as head coach since 2001, the first year of the program at Rice. Associate Head Coach Nicky Adams will take over as interim coach upon Huston's departure.