Baylor Bear Foundation
For Jennifer Jordan Washington, the Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony tonight will be bittersweet.
“I’m really excited and nervous at the same time,” said Washington, a nine-time track and field All-American who also won five conference championships. “I really consider it an honor. I think the nervousness comes from my father passing away, it will be three years in December. And I know that he would have been just ecstatic. That’s why it’s bittersweet. But, I know he’s smiling down on me. He will always be a part of me, and he’s in my heart.”
Her father, James Jordan, was actually one of the key factors in Jennifer coming to Baylor in the first place. James had run at Baylor under legendary coach Clyde Hart in the 1970s, “so Coach (Hart) had an opportunity to coach both of us.”
“I think the world of Coach Hart,” she said. “While I was at Baylor, I really looked at him as another father figure. He was amazing, not only as a coach but as a person. I learned so much from him about being disciplined, about work ethic.”
That’s why Washington wasn’t completely surprised by her early success at Baylor. As a freshman in 1995, she won the Southwest Conference indoor title and placed third at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 400 meters and added All-America honors indoors and outdoors in the 4x400 relay.
“I think when you put in the work and you have a great coach, that combination, you can’t go wrong,” she said. “And while it was satisfying to do that my freshman year, with Clyde Hart coaching me, it wasn’t a big surprise. He’s a great coach.”
Even before Baylor, Washington had success on the track. She finished third in the 400 at the 5A state meet as a junior at Clear Creek High School and then won it the next year, finishing nearly a second ahead of runner-up Chaundra Frank in 55.8 seconds.
“I had been running track since the seventh grade, ran in the Junior Olympics, and then my senior year in high school I got recruited,” she said. “Out of all the schools that were recruiting me, I knew Baylor was the place for me.”
Part of the Baylor track and field group that bridged the SWC and Big 12 conferences, some of Jordan’s biggest success came as the anchor for the 4x400 relays.
At one point, she held school records in five events – the indoor (53.11) and outdoor 400 (51.85), the indoor (3:33.93) and outdoor 4x400 relay (3:29.11) and the 600-yard run (1:17.66). The outdoor relay and 600-yard marks still rank No. 1 nearly 20 years later.
The crowning achievement came in 1998, when Washington anchored a relay with Angelique Banket, Alayah Cooper and Yulanda Nelson to the program’s first national title at the 1998 NCAA Indoor Championships. It was also Baylor’s first national title in any women’s sport.
Despite running in the slower of two heats, Baylor’s time of 3:33.93 clipped overall national champion Texas’ mark of 3:34.06 by 13 hundredths of a second.
“That made it even sweeter that we ran that time, pushing ourselves,” Washington said. “It was tough to watch, because you don’t know, anything can happen in a race. People can drop batons or trip, all sorts of things can happen in a race. Just watching it and wondering how good our time was, and then for that to flash up and know that we won, that was pretty awesome.”
Part of Baylor’s first graduating class for the master’s in social work program in 2001, Washington married former Baylor football player Ahmad Washington two weeks later.
“We actually met in study hall, and that was an instant friendship,” Jennifer said. “We were friends for quite a while, then we started dating, got engaged and then married. He’s the love of my life.”
Staying in Waco, Jennifer has worked for a local federal government agency for the last 14 years. Ahmad is a minister and positive rap artist, starting the MovementUp (full link: https://www.movementup.net/home) program that’s dedicated to educating children and youth.
“He talks about bullying and all sorts of things that can distract you when you’re in school,” Jennifer said, “but how it’s really important to stay focused so that you can get your education.”
The couple has two children, daughter, Jade, 10; and son, Jace, 7.
“My daughter, I think, is the one that’s going to be athletic,” Jennifer said. “She’s played volleyball, basketball and soccer, but I think volleyball is her life. She’s just been selected to the Waco Juniors team. And then my son is musical, like his dad, so he likes to play the drums. And here recently, he’s gotten confident enough to where he’s played in a church service at 7 years old. So, that’s been neat to see him do that.”
Joining Washington in the 2017 Hall of Fame class are fellow track and field standouts Jeff Jackson and Bill Payne, 2004 NCAA tennis champion Benjamin Becker, Steffanie Blackmon off the 2005 women’s basketball national championship team, football players Ron Francis and Bill Hicks and women’s golfer Melanie Hagewood Willhite.
In addition to Friday’s Hall of Fame banquet at the Waco Convention Center, the inductees will ride in Saturday morning’s Homecoming parade and then be introduced at the end of the first quarter of Saturday night’s football game versus 23rd-ranked West Virginia.