Feb. 27, 2010
Jim Bevan's Rice Owls came to the Yeoman Field House on Saturday ready for a race to the wire for the Conference USA Indoor Track team title, but despite a standout effort, Bevan's team could not overcome a standout effort by UTEP, who edged the Owls for the team title.
The Miners ended the Owls three-year run at the top of the C-USA podium, capturing their first conference title, finishing with 113.5 points to 110 for the Owls.
"We were hot today, but UTEP was hotter," Rice head coach Jim Bevan said. "It was like an overtime basketball game, right down to the wire. It was a very entertaining day of track and field for the fans.
"We were beaten by a team who has the best athlete in the conference, and who are coached by on eof the best in the business who is retiring this year," Bevan noted. "Blessing Okagbare is an Olympic bronze medalist and coach Bob Kitchens is a class individual. If we had to see our winning streak end, I can't think of a better person to hand the trophy to."
UTEP carried a six-point advantage into Saturday' action (41-35), but Rice jumped into the lead thanks to a 23-point haul in the mile run. Becky Wade's strong stretch kick gave her the gold medal, while teammates Halsey Fowler (3rd), Britany Williams (4th) and Nicole Mericle (5th) followed closely behind.
Bevan knew the Owls would need to rely on unexpected points to make a run at the team title, and just as in years past, his team delivered.
Kimberly Stanford and Alex Gibbs delivered nine points in the 60 meter hurdles, while Tina Robinson uncorked a throw of 13.47m/44-2.50 that was 2 ½ feet better than her previous best to add two point to the team total.
Sophomore Keltie John captured Rice's only other individual title of the meet, holding off a pair of challenges in the home stretch to capture the gold medal in the 800 meters, and teamed with Sophie Peeters (4th), Vicki Walker (5th) and Heather Olson (7th) to score 21 points in the event.
However, the Owls could not hold off the charge of UTEP, as the Miners closed to within half of a point heading into the final event of the night, the 4x400 relay. Running in different heats, the Owls saw UTEP post a time of 3:46.83 which they needed to beat. However, Rice could only muster a final effort of 3:49.38 to finish 5th.