Howard, Blackett lead women's team to victory

by David Gordon

The women's track and field team opened its 1996 indoor season with a victory at the Cougar Indoor Opener held last Saturday at the University of Houston.

The Owls scored 117 points, 10 ahead of second place Louisiana State University.

Boise State University, Houston and Texas Christian University rounded out the field.

The LSU team has won the NCAA indoor meet for the last three years.

The team's versatility was its strength at the meet. They scored consistently in the sprints, distance events, throws and jumps.

Three Owls claimed first in their individual events. Shot putter Trisha Harris won with a throw of 42-0. Katy Eklof took the 5,000 meters with a time of 17:59.43.

Howard took first in the long jump with a mark of 19-6. Howard also placed second in the triple jump with a mark of 39-10.

Andrea Blackett scored in two individual events for the team. She took third in the 400 with a time of 57.01.

Her time of 8.41 earned her fifth place in the 55 hurdles.

Two other Owls scored in the 400. Melissa Straker and Vonda Newhouse finished second and fifth, respectively.

Both TaNisha Mills and Dionne Wright ran in the 55. Mills edged Wright by .05 seconds, earning a second-place finish. Wright came in fourth.

Mills' time of 6.98 provisionally qualifies her for a spot in the NCAA indoor meet.

Alexis Smith and Kari Vigerstol represented the team in the 800 meters.

Smith took fourth with a time of 2:19.81. Vigerstol followed three seconds behind in fifth.Vigerstol also took third in the mile with a 5:13.49.

Stacey Swank, Rice's top cross country runner this season, finished second in the 3,000 meters.

Alex Gajewski followed Swank by just four seconds, taking third place.

Only two schools competed in the distance medley relay.

The Rice team of Chaundra Frank, Shaquandra Roberson, Alexis Smith and Holly Welch finished over 23 seconds ahead of the Houston team.

In the women's high jump, Frank took fifth with a leap of 5-4.25.

In the 4x400 relay, usually one of Rice's strongest events, the team didn't score due to a false start.

The team lost to graduation two of its stars: three-time NCAA javelin champion Valerie Tulloch and all-America distance runner Candace Lessmeister.

Swank has been able to step in as the team's top distance runner.

Since the javelin is not an indoor event, the team won't miss Tulloch's points until the outdoor season begins.

As a result, the women's team is looking forward to a successful indoor season.

The team returns to Houston next weekend to compete in the Gallery Games and the Cougar Invitational.

After a trip to the University of Illinois, the team will compete in the Southwest Conference Indoor Championships in Fort Worth.The outdoor season begins March 22 when the team heads across town to compete in the Texas Southern University relays.

This item appeared in the Sports section of the January 26, 1996 issue.

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