MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Rice junior distance runner Cali Roper created history by winning her third consecutive C-USA Outdoor 10,000m title Friday evening at Dean Hayes Track, becoming the first female athlete in league history to win the event three times.
Roper, a native of Conroe, Texas, broke former Owl All-American Becky Wade's previous C-USA 10,000m mark (34:41.14) with a record time of 34:30.90, nearly 24 seconds better than her closest competition. The victory was Roper's seventh career C-USA title between the cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field seasons. Roper completed the 2015-16 Triple Crown by winning the C-USA Cross Country individual title, the C-USA Indoor 3000m and 5000m titles, and Friday's 10,000m.
In addition to Roper, Rice senior vaulter McKenzie Johnson won her first career C-USA Outdoor pole vault title with a winning vault of 3.80m (12'5.50) to help earn the Owls an additional 10 points. Johnson, from San Diego, Calif., was the only vaulter to clear 3.80m, clearing the bar on her lone attempt. Rice sophomore Ayane Rosano finished right behind Johnson in second place (3.65m) earning her first career All-Conference honors. Senior vaulter Marielle Brisbois picked up an additional five points with a fourth place (3.65m) result in the pole vault.
Junior Katie Jensen rallied late in the 10,000m to pick up five points for the Owls with a fourth place finish of 35:17.91. Senior Leslie Schilsky also scored for the Owls with a ninth place finish in the heptathlon to begin the afternoon. Schilsky totaled 4841 points, a new personal best, highlighted by a third place finish in the 800m.
"What a great day for the Owls this was," Rice women's T&F head coach Jim Bevan said. "Cali led for 24 laps and ran away to her third consecutive 10k title. In that same race Katie ran very smart and moved from ninth to fourth to score five big points. Our vaulters dominated with McKenzie winning her second career C-USA championship and Ayane winning the silver and Marielle fourth. They are a tremendous group. And we started off the day with Leslie getting a personal best in the heptathlon. She's worked very hard for three years to learn a new event."
The Rice women sit alone in first place through the first two days of competition with 39 team points, followed by WKU (27 points) and Middle Tennessee (25 points). Action will resume on Saturday at 3 p.m. beginning with the long jump.