By: Kenny Bybee (email@example.com)
BIRMINGHAM, AL – A late charge by the Rice Owls women’s track and field team on Sunday was nearly enough to overcome eventual champion UTEP in a dramatic finish at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
Rice (110 points) finished just three points behind UTEP (113) and in the process won three individual titles and placed nine on all-conference teams.
Junior Katie Jensen shined the brightest for the Owls on Sunday, winning both the mile and the 3000m to earn 20 team points. Jensen, from The Woodlands, shattered the C-USA meet record as well as the CrossPlex record with a personal best time of 4:39.61, breaking Elinor Kirk’s (UAB) previous record of 4:41.10. Later in the afternoon Jensen won her second individual title with a winning time of 9:22.24 in the 3000m. In both of Jensen’s victories, fellow junior teammate Elsa Racasan was nearly as superb, finishing third in both the mile (4:44.39-personal best) and the 3000m (9:36.26) for 12 combined team points and two all-conference honors.
Rice’s other individual title came from senior Daisy Ding in the triple jump, who recorded her fourth career C-USA triple jump title with a winning leap of 12.65m (41-06.00). Senior teammate Cybil Obiozor also earned all-conference honors in the triple jump with a distance of 12.54m (41-01.75).
Sophomore sprinter Hannah Jackson backed up a strong prelims performance on Saturday in the 200m with a third place result on Sunday, crossing in 23.90 for six key team points.
The Owls earned an additional 14 points in the pole vault with a second place finish from freshman Kylie Swiekatowski (3.76m-12-04.00) and a third place result from Ayane Rossano (3.76m-12-04.00), both of whom earned C-USA all-conference accolades.
Rice rallied to tie UTEP 105-105 with just the 4x400 relay remaining but the Miners edged the Owls with a 3:39.87 to 3:48.06 difference, despite Rice setting a season-best from the foursome of Bryanah Rideaux, Brooke Johnson, Camille Little and Jackson.
Freshman Hannah Bablak, who was seeded 15th going into Sunday, placed fifth in the 800m with a time of 2:16.56 while Cali Roper (3000m-6th-9:47.58), Michelle Fokam (triple jump-6th-12.22m) and Ijeoma Ugwunze (shot put-7th-14.54m) also scored for the Owls.
“We competed throughout and it really came down to the 3k, pole vault, triple jump and 4x400,” Rice head coach Jim Bevan said. “We came on very strong at the end. I’m very proud of our ladies as we scored the most points we’ve scored in eight years and almost picked off UTEP.”