LAWRENCE, Kansas - Rice junior Cali Roper placed second overall while sophomore Elsa Racasan finished third to help lead the Owls' women's cross country team to a second place finish at Saturday's Rim Rock Classic host by Kansas University.
"I was delighted with our performance as a team as well as numerous individual performances," Rice women's cross country head coach Jim Bevan said. "We ran much better than we ran last year (when we won) but we were beaten by a much-better Kansas team today. Our average time of our scorers was 27 seconds faster than last year and we had a number of runners make significant breakthroughs."
Roper, who finished in the top-five for a third straight meet, crossed the finish line in a time of 20:48.9 in the 6000m run. A native of Willis, Texas, Roper was coming off a fourth place finish at the Texas A&M Invitational (6000m run). Racasan, from Lugrin, France, earned third with a mark of 21:14.6 for her second top-three finish this season.
"Cali ran a great race and fought it out with a tremendous runner in Lokedi from Kansas and she was 45 seconds faster than her winning time last year," Bevan said. "Elsa ran a breakthrough race finishing third and improving by 1:40 over last year. Elsa is a much improved runner and runs with much more confidence. Hannah improved over a minute from last year and is becoming a great 6000m racer. Fabiola has been a delight in watching her development. She was a 400 runner in high school and worked hard and became our fifth runner today. I'm also very proud of Kristin, Ellen, Eleanor, Molly and Abigail as they have all improved and are getting better and there is much more improvement in that group."
Juniors Katie Jensen (10th-21:49.9) and Hannah Kay (19th-22:12.3) each finished in the top-20 for a combined 23 points. Also racing for the Owls was redshirt sophomore Fabiola Andujar-Perez (31st-22:43.6), redshirt sophomore Kristin Sweeney (33rd-22:50.0), redshirt sophomore Ellen Diemert (35th-22:53.7), redshirt junior Eleanor Wardleworth (42nd-23:09.1), freshman Molly Tilbrook (47th-23:21.0) and redshirt freshman Abigail Cartwright (68th-24:03.4).
"We needed this race and we are coming together as a team," Bevan said. "For me, this was one of the highlights for us over the last few years because you can see where we have been and where we're headed. Overall I was delighted with beating 11 other schools and improving so much from last year to this year and from last week to this week."
The women were beaten only by host Kansas (23 points), who had the individual champ in Sharon Lokedi (20:42.4) and placed six total runners in the top 10.
The Rice men's squad placed fifth out of 14 teams in the 8000m run led by senior Will Firth, who placed ninth individually in a time of 24:28.8. Redshirt sophomore Marco Ruiz also had a top-25 finish by placing 21st with a mark of 24:52.9.
"As a team, overall, I felt like we could have battled a bit better with the two teams that finished just ahead of us," Rice men's cross country head coach Jon Warren said. "Seeing as this was really the first true meet of the year, it shows where we're at and what we need to do to get where we want to be."
Sophomore Brad Dohner (27th-25:01.7), freshman Connor Meaux (43rd-25:28.2), sophomore Steve Booker (57th-25:55.0), redshirt sophomore Griffin Lee (60th-26:00.3), redshirt junior James McCreary (63rd-26:04.2) and freshman Clay Musial (71st-26:15.5) finished in that order for the Owls.
"We have come up here for a number of years now and as good as the fields have been in the past, none of them have come close to the quality of teams that ran today," Warren said. "Will ran a time that almost always wins this race and finished ninth. Obviously it is the best he has ever done here. Marco really stepped up with a great performance to post a good finish and Brad Dohner, while not quite finishing where I thought he could, still put together a very solid effort. Freshman Connor Meaux continues to show that great things are to come by running well considering this is his first attempt at the 8k distance."
Iowa State won the men's team title with 35 points followed by host Kansas (47), Nebraska (71) and Southern Illinois (110).
The women's cross country team will be back in action next weekend when they race at the HBU Invitational on Friday, Oct. 9 while the men's squad's next race will be Saturday, Oct. 17 at the Pre-National Invitational in Louisville, KY.