Feb. 28, 2009
The Rice men's track and field team rode a rollercoaster of emotions during the first day of the Conference USA Indoor Track and Field Championships, but when the final race was completed on Friday night, the Owls found themselves just 2 ½ points behind Houston in the team standings.
"When you stop to think about all the things that happened to do, we are actually sitting pretty well in terms of points and qualifiers," Rice head coach John Warren said. "But it's still frustrating to go through something like this. But at the same time, we had some others step up to help soften the blow. "
The day began with Jason Colwick, who came into the meet ranked first in the nation in the pole vault, failing in all three attempts after entering the competition at 5.36 meters (17-7). But Colwick's teammates picked up the slack as Chris Kato became the third different Owl vaulter in the last four years to take the indoor title.
Kato, a junior from Deer Park, cleared a personal-best 4.91/16-1.25 on his first attempt to take the title, while teammates Tyler Whitham and Blaise Bassler finished third and fourth. Whitham was the conference champion as a freshman in 2006, but had not cleared a bar this season while battling injuries.
A short time later, Rice senior Brett Olson made a strong move at the midpoint of the 5,000 meters into fight place and appeared headed to be moving up, only to then falter due to breathing problems and finished ninth. However, teammate Aaron Robson found his legs at the same time Olson faltered and passed a pair of runners on the final lap to finish third in 14:55.03.
In the 800 meters, junior Matt Hoffman appeared headed for a spot in the finals, but was felled by an achilies tendon injury just short of the finish line.
In addition to the pole vaulters and Robson, the Owls had three other individuals score points on Friday. Sam McGuffie placed fifth in the long jump with a leap of 7.06/23-2 and Clayton Chaney added an additional point while finishing eighth with a leap of 6.84/ 22-05.25. Clay Baker finished sixth in the weight throw with a personal-best throw of 16.62/54-06.50
McGuffie also posted the second-fastest qualifying time of the night in the 60 with a time of 6.82.
Competition resumes in the heptathlon at 11 am. Field events begin at 1 p.m. and running finals get underway at 3 p.m. at the Yeoman Fieldhouse on the campus of the University of Houston.