Tuesday, September 7, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 11

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About the Cougar

Houston, Rice, other Texas schools compete in local cross country race

By Tom Carpenter
Daily Cougar Staff

The UH cross country team bolted from the starting line Friday night at 6:30 p.m. in the Rice Invitational Relay, which began their season.

Men and women teams from Rice, UH, Texas Southern, Texas A&M, Baylor and Sam Houston State participated in the race, held along Allen Parkway, just west of Montrose, making it a neighborly affair.

This cross country race, held at Rice University, is unique among college sporting events. The field is wide open to anyone who wishes to race.

"Last year, a relay team composed of the Rice cross country coaches won the race," said race director Ray Davidson of Rice.

"This is a race to let us see where our kids are, to see who did what during the summer," Davidson said. "Plus, there's some local runners participating. It's a workout for the runners."

The Rice Relay's unique format consists of two-person teams. Each school can have as many teams as it has runners to compete.

UH men's coach Howie Ryan echoed the sentiments of Davidson.

"According to the NCAA, you have to have a meet within so many days after you start training," Ryan said. "You're allowed 21 days of training and then you have to have a race, which means by tomorrow we had to have a meet or be in trouble with the NCAA."

"I tried to create teams with my runners that would be competitive among themselves," UH women's coach Theresa Fuqua said. "As it turned out, we were. Our teams all finished within about 30 seconds of each other."

A fair crowd of parents, friends, classmates and small children showed up in the tranquil setting along Allen Parkway to watch their favorite athletes and cheer the runners.

Blue skies and golden sunshine with light humidity made the evening outing perfect for the runners and the spectators.

Runners from different schools mingled and talked with each other, moving among the crowd, creating small pools of laughter and introducing each other to parents and friends.

The colorful uniforms of the teams added to the festive air that made the contest seem more like a family reunion picnic than an athletic event.

"I'm just happy to get started and I'm satisfied," Fuqua said. "I'm real happy with my runners. We accomplished what we set out to do."

The UH men's team had a rigorous morning workout before the late afternoon race.

"We haven't had any hard workouts yet, mostly just doing mileage," Ryan said. "I thought the guys did pretty good. We had a couple freshmen that performed real well.

"We're thin, and we know that," Ryan said. "We kept our senior co-captain out because he's had slight injuries to his legs and this is a rough course. We didn't want to take the chance of getting him hurt. The team competed and that's what I wanted to see. I'm satisfied."

It was a great way to kick off the cross country season. The setting, the atmosphere and the race itself were unique to Houston.

The Rice Invitational Relay is the only race the cross country teams run in Houston, so if you missed it, you'll have to do a little leg work yourself to watch the Cougar distance runners in their next race Sept. 19 at the Southwest Texas Invitational.

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