By: Kenny Bybee (email@example.com)
HOUSTON – The Rice Owls track and field programs put the final bow on a successful 34th edition of the Victor Lopez Classic Saturday evening, capturing five individual titles and 14 top-three finishes at Wendel D. Ley Track.
“The highlight of the meet was the meet,” Rice women’s T&F head coach Jim Bevan said. “We had a tremendous crowd and it was an electric atmosphere. We had three days of great weather. The performances were just outstanding, both collegiately and high school. This was a chance to showcase the high school talent in the city of Houston. We had the number one shot put and 4x4 in the nation, the number two discus in the nation and the number two girl’ 3000m in the nation. We just had a number of top-10 finishes in the nation. Not to mention we had a world record set in the masters 50-year-old 5k yesterday by a former Owl Sean Wade breaking 15 minutes.”
“The meet itself is what we hoped for in that it was an exciting three-hour segment on a Saturday night filled with intense competition and outstanding performances,” Bevan said. “For a track aficionado this was a great evening.”
Rice senior thrower Claire Uke backed up her C-USA Athlete of the Week award with two more victories, recording her third and fourth individual titles of the outdoor season with wins in the discus (49.10m) and shot put (16.32m). The victories gave Uke 31 career wins between her indoor and outdoor career at Rice. Junior teammate Ijeoma Ugwunze finished right behind Uke with a mark of 47.10m to place second in the event for a second-straight week. The discus was one of three events in which the Owls finishes first/second on Saturday.
In the pole vault senior McKenzie Johnson beat out fellow senior teammate Marielle Brisbois for top honors, both recording heights of 3.97m to take over the C-USA lead. The victory was Johnson’s 11th of her career and second at the Victor Lopez Classic.
Also finishing first/second was junior Daisy Ding and Cybil Obiozor, respectively, in the triple jump. Ding won her 11th career triple jump competition and third straight at the Victor Lopez Classic with a leap of 12.50m, edging out Obiozor’s mark of 12.43m.
Rice’s other victory on Saturday came from junior Eboni Sutherland, who took gold in the 100m dash with a time of 12.12 for her first career individual victory. The Owls also received second place finishes from Belle MacFarlane in the high jump (1.71m) and Akuira Young in the 400m hurdles (1:00.70). The Rice women ended the evening by placing second/third in the 1500m by Elsa Racasan (4:32.58) and Abigail Cartwright (4:36.81).
“For us we had some outstanding performances,” Bevan said. “We went one-two in the pole vault and Claire won the shot and discus, regaining her old rhythm to be at the top week after week. We went one-two in the triple jump and Belle was second in the high jump. We also went one-two in the 1500m. Eboni Sutherland also ran great for us and is looking the best she has at Rice.”
After a very strong showing on Friday the Rice men posted solid results again Saturday, led in throws by sophomores Austin Riddle and Uche Ugwunze. A day after winning the hammer throw Riddle set a lifetime best in the discus with a throw of 50.35m and climbed into third place in the C-USA standings. Meanwhile, Ugwunze established a lifetime best throw (16.00m) of his own in the shot put to place third overall on Saturday.
Competing unattached junior Erik Maher placed second overall in the javelin with a distance of 64.57m, which is sixth-best in C-USA this season. The Owls also received a fifth place (3:51.50) collegiate run by Williams Roberts in the 1500.
“The series that Austin had this weekend in the hammer and come back to surpass 50 meters in the discus was really impressive,” Rice men’s T&F head coach Jon Warren said. “Uche also had a breakthrough with a lifetime best and Erik Maher had a standout performance in the javelin. Our steeple and 5000m yesterday was very solid as well highlighted by Will Firth and Marco Ruiz. It was an overall good meet, I was very pleased. It was a showcase meet and we responded very well.”
The Owls now set their eyes on the Texas Relays, which run March 31-April 2 in Austin.