April 22, 2017
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Baylor track and field didn't let Saturday's blustery conditions or a loaded field of ranked teams keep it from making the Michael Johnson Invitational a memorable one.
Capping the day off with matching wins by the men's and women's 4x400 relays, the Bears captured 10 event titles and added seven runner-up finishes in their second of two home meets at the riverside Clyde Hart Track & Field Stadium.
"Overall, it was a very solid day, in spite of the weather and the wind,," Baylor coach Todd Harbour said. "It's something we're not really used to at this point, because it's already usually warmed up pretty good. This is probably the coolest weekend we've had since we've come out of indoor. But great crowd and just a great night for the seniors. That was probably one of the happiest groups we've finished up a last home meet with."
That group of 19 seniors, recognized between the afternoon and evening sessions, combined to win half of the team's eight individual event titles.
Cion Hicks, who broke the school record two weeks ago at the Baylor Invitational, won the shot put for the fourth consecutive meet, recording a mark of 53-9 ¼ on her fourth attempt.
Fellow senior Annie Rhodes narrowly missed breaking her own school record in the pole vault. After clearing 14-5 ½ on her final attempt, Rhodes twice appeared to clear the bar at 14-9 ½ only to clip it on the way down.
"Both times, honestly, I kind of came off of the bar thinking I had cleared it," Rhodes said. "And then by the time I hit the mat, I saw it fall. It's like your worst nightmare as an athlete. Clearing (14-5 ½) and then almost getting it kind of leaves you hungry, wanting more for the next meet, which is really what I needed coming off a string of just OK meets."
Rhodes' season-best mark is the sixth-best in the nation this year, but she has bigger goals in mind.
"My goal is 15 (feet), not 14-9," she said. "Hopefully, I'll be going for 15 at Big 12, because that's been my goal for the past year and a half is to get 15 feet."
On the men's side, senior Rhys Phillips won the 110-meter hurdles going away with a personal-best time of 13.79, beating Texas A&M freshman Tyler Guillory by over six-tenths of a second.
In one of the last races of the night, Matthew League led from start to finish to win the 1,500 meters in a personal-best time of 3:53.03. After taking a big lead, he had to hold off A&M freshman Jon Bishop down the stretch to win for the third straight meet.
Junior transfer Leticia De Souza turned in one of the biggest highlights of the meet, winning the 400 meters in a personal-best time of 52.74. Despite struggling against the strong winds on the back stretch, she held off a field that included A&M freshman Jaevin Reed (53.11) and 2017 NCAA indoor champion Shakima Wimbley from Miami (53.46).
"I was hoping to run faster, but the wind was terrible, so now I understand why I didn't run that fast," said de Souza, who ran the 14th-best time in the NCAA this season. "(Wimbley) is one of the girls I've always liked watching her run. She's amazing and she's had amazing results, so I'm happy to be able to vie with her."
Harbour said it will also help de Souza's confidence "that she's got a better race in her. I know she wanted to run faster, but she will. She'll be under 52 by nationals."
NCAA indoor champion Fred Kerley from A&M won the men's 400 with a stadium-record and national-best time of 44.60, with Baylor sophomore Wil London finishing second in 45.78.
Baylor swept the 200-meter titles, with sophomore Kiana Horton running a time of 23.62 and freshman Maxwell Willis turning in a personal-best 20.36 that ranks as the ninth-fastest in the nation this season. That was just six-hundredths of a second off Trayvon Bromell's stadium record.
"I didn't know what the record was, I was just running," Willis said. "With less wind, I would have got it. . . . Mentally and physically, I was just cold. I just gave it all, came across the line. I wasn't happy, but then at the same time I was happy, because it was just cold, so mentally I was down."
With A&M holding Kerley out of the men's 4x400 relay, Baylor's quartet of Willis, London, Zac Curran and George Caddick won with a time of 3:04.98. Kerley ran the anchor leg last year when the Aggies set the stadium record with a time of 3:02.96.
"Kerley didn't obviously run for A&M, but they're stacked, they're loaded," Harbour said. "They've got a great group right now and they're national champions. That's got to help our men a little bit, regardless of who they didn't run on it. We competed hard, and it was good to end on a good note."
Other than London, turning in runner-up finishes were Taylor Bennett in the 100 (11.25), Curran in the 800 (1:48.60), Maggie Montoya in the 1,500 (4:21.51), Jordan West in the 5,000 (14:43.87), Brianna Richardson in the triple jump (43-7 ¾) and Megan SaxvanderWayden in the javelin with a school-record toss of 152-3.
Baylor also had a pair of athletes turning in double duty. Soccer's Raegan Padgett was third in her heat and seventh overall in the women's 200 with a time of 24.32 after playing in a scrimmage against SMU, while football's Chris Platt played in the Green & Gold Spring Game before running a 47.5 leg on the "B" 4x400 relay that finished sixth in 3:14.74.
"This is probably warm for (Notre Dame), but even they said, `It's cold,''' Harbour said. "It kind of wore on you over the day. The sun came out there a little bit at the end, warmed it up, then it cooled off again once it started getting dark. But, I thought we battled through it really well, and I thought our athletes really competed for the most part at a really high level."
The Bears will compete in the Texas Tech Quadrangular next Friday in Lubbock before beginning postseason with the Big 12 Outdoor Championship May 12-14 in Lawrence, Kan.
WACO, Texas - Baylor track and field athletes produced 10 event titles Saturday at Clyde Hart Track & Field Stadium.
With overcast skies and windy conditions, Baylor's contingent of 73 athletes also produced another six runner-up finishes on the day.
The highlight of the day was Leticia De Souza's victory in the 400 meters. The junior Bear outraced Texas A&M freshman Jaevin Reed and 2017 NCAA Indoor 400-meter champion Shakima Wimbley of Miami to take the crown in 52.74. That time was a personal-best and the 14th-best in the NCAA this season.
Meanwhile on the men's side, Wil London placed second with a time of 45.78. The Bears swept the 200-meter titles as Kiana Horton produced a time of 23.62 and Maxwell Willis blazed to a personal-best mark of 20.36, which is currently ninth-best in the nation.
BU closed out the meet with their men's and women's 4x400-meter relays capturing titles. First, the women's crew of Victoria Powell, Kiana Hawn, Kiana Horton and Leticia Desouza cruised to a win in 3:36.85. Next, the men's quartet of Maxwell Willis, Wil London, Zak Curran and George Caddick used strong closing speed from all four legs to win in 3:04.98.
Battling the windy conditions, Annie Rhodes cleared her opening three bars in the pole vault on first attempts, before getting over 14-5.5 [4.41m] on her final attempt. The senior Bear almost cleared her next bar, which would have been a school record, but she was left to settle for her season-best clearance that is sixth-best in the nation.
For a fourth consecutive meet, Cion Hicks won the shot put event. The senior Bear recorded her best attempt on her fourth throw, notching a mark of 53-9.25 [16.39m].
Senior Matthew League cruised to a win in the 1,500 meters for the third-straight meet, using a personal-best time of 3:53.03. After opening up a large advantage early in the race, League held on late for the victory.
Maggie Montoya controlled much of the 1,500 meters, but was outraced at the line by Northern Illinois' Hope Schmelzle to finish second in 4:21.51. Meanwhile in the 800 meters, Zak Curran couldn't quite catch the leader in his race and took second in 1:48.60.
Megan SaxvanderWeyden led off the day with school record output in the javelin. The sophomore Bear opened her series of six throws by uncorking her best attempt of 152-3 [46.40m]. That mark proved to be the second-best mark on the day and was four inches better than the 1995 school record of Tammy Wilkerson (151-11).
Taylor Bennett established a new personal-best in the 100 meters racing to a runner-up finish in 11.25.
With a season-best leap of 43-7.75 [13.30m], Brianna Richardson took second in the triple jump. That mark is tied for ninth-best in the NCAA and just 1.5 inches off the senior's personal best.
With a second-place showing, Jordan West (14:43.87) led a contingent of five Bears that all placed in the top-10 of the 5,000 meters.
Baylor's 19-member senior class was recognized prior to the start of the evening running session.
Baylor honored two Baylor Legends during the day in Deon Minor and Tony Miller.
TOP QUOTE #1
"We had a great crowd and it was a great night for the seniors. We have a great group and we are definitely going to miss them. I thought our athletes battled through the conditions and competed for the most part at a very high level." - head coach Todd Harbour on the meet
The Bears will now travel to Lubbock, Texas for the Texas Tech Quadrangular on Friday, April 28.