By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Michael Ford's sprint crew "put on a show and just did everything we could possibly do," but the Baylor women came up short on their bid for a second conference championship on Sunday's final day of the Big 12 Outdoor Championship at Clyde Hart Track & Field Stadium.
Coming into the day in seventh place with just 14 points, the Bears swept the individual 200- , 400- and 800-meter titles and both relays to score 79 of the team's 109 total points as they moved up to a third-place tie with Kansas and 26 points behind conference champion Kansas State.
"To win that many titles in that area is pretty impressive," head coach Todd Harbour said. "We're just a little short in the field events right now. That's going to change here real shortly, but that's where we are right now. That was about as hard as I've ever seen us compete. I thought we competed hard last year, but we had young ladies that just kept stepping up. Somebody would stumble, and somebody would step up. Just across the board, that's what happened all weekend."
Ford said he talked to the sprinters "going into the meet that if we were going to win it, everyone had to maybe run three or four races. So, that's what we tried to do."
Winning high-point honors with 23 points, Horton broke Yulanda Nelson's 19-year-old school record in the 400 meters (51.42) with a winning time of 51.22 that ranks fifth nationally this year.
"The goal all season has been to break the school record," Horton said, "and I didn't think I'd do it today. But, it brought tears to my eyes. . . . I definitely wasn't going to let anybody go away with the win. So, no matter what the race looked like, I came out on top. I'm very blessed, highly favored and very thankful that I could be at this moment."
Starting a long day, Horton ran the leadoff leg on a relay with Bennett, Juanita Mainoo and Raven Grant that won a Big 12 title with a season-best time of 43.90. That bettered their previous best by more than a half-second.
"We switched that order actually this week," said Ford, referencing the switch by Bennett from anchor to the second leg. "We didn't know what we could do, but I thought we could run better that way, and we did."
After Horton and sophomore Victoria Powell (career-best 52.79) finished first and fifth, respectively, in the 400, Bennett (11.29) and Grant (11.45) went 3-4 in the 100 meters. It was a disappointing finish for Bennett, who tied the stadium record the day before with an 11.13 clocking in the prelims.
"I just didn't execute my 100," Bennett said. "That's what happens when you don't execute and you run against good people. I was upset, but I just turned it all into energy toward my 200."
Yes, she did.
Proving she's all the way back from a quadricep tear that wiped out her indoor season, Bennett turned in a season-best time of 22.87 in winning the 200 by nearly half a second. Horton was second in 22.35, with Mainoo (23.55) fourth and Grant (23.98) eighth as the Bears racked up 24 points in the one event.
"It definitely motivated me to execute my 200 as best as I could," said Bennett, who was just off her stadium-record time of 22.71 that she set two years ago. "I've had some ups and downs this season, but I wanted to make sure I defended my title, and that's what I did. I'm so happy with that."
A redshirt freshman who missed the 2017 outdoor season with an injury, Aaliyah Miller followed up her Big 12 indoor title with another big-time performance as she won the 800 with a meet-record time of 2:02.41 that ranks third nationally this season and second-best all-time at Baylor.
"I just wanted to take it out hard and see what I could hold and maintain going into the next level, which is regionals and nationals," said Miller, who took the lead in the first 200 meters and never looked back. "Just seeing all the hard work I've been doing in practice paying off in the races is really all you can ask for."
Harbour said Miller came through the 600-meter mark at 1:28, on pace to shatter Olicia Williams' school record (2:02.26) and go below the two-minute mark. "She just couldn't quite hold on to it," Harbour said. "If it had been like it is right now (cooler and no wind), she might have run 2-flat."
In the closing event of the night, Powell, Bennett, Miller and Horton ran away with the 4x400 relay with a stadium-record and season-best time of 3:30.42.
"We asked a lot from these athletes at this meet, and some of them were tired, but the home fans helped us big-time," Ford said. "(Horton) came back right before the (4x400) relay and said, `What do you want me to do?' And I said, `I want you to win high point, but we've got to win the relay.' That's why she ran the relay, which they ran awesome. It was an awesome meet by our ladies, and we're very proud of them."
The men were a "few bullets short," scoring just 63 points. That placed them eighth overall but just 13 points fifth-place TCU.
"I thought 75 was about all we could score on the men's side, so I thought we could have squeezed out maybe 12 more (points)," Harbour said. "I knew there wasn't going to be much of a gap between eighth and fifth. . . . We just came up a few bullets short there. You lose Jayson (Baldridge) in the (400-meter) hurdles, and we weren't able to run Wil (London) there at the end (in the 4x400 relay). I thought we could finish maybe in the top four or five if we just hit."
Still running without freshman sprinter Isaiah Cunningham, the Baylor men finished second in an extremely close 4x100-meter relay that had Texas Tech (39.93) nudging out Baylor (39.43) and TCU (39.44). Sophomore Ian Braxton filled in for Cunningham and joined Maxwell Willis, Malik Wilson and London in turning in the Bears' second-best time of the year.
London (45.06) did become just the second Big 12 athlete to win three 400-meter titles - Baylor's Darold Williamson won it four times (2002-05) - edging out TCU sophomore Derrick Mokaleng (45.08) by just two hundredths of a second.
"I always start with the fire," London said. "I didn't run the race I wanted to at the beginning. I felt my hamstring a little bit. It wasn't bad, (not) a tear or anything. But, I'll take the win. It wasn't the time, but whatever time I run, as long as I win I'm fine with it."
As precautionary moves, London and Baldridge were held out of the closing 4x400 relay event. But, with freshman Trey Fields running a 44.7 split on the second leg, the quartet of Willis, Fields, Caleb Dickson and hurdler Antwuan Musgrove as a fill-in anchor finished third in 3:05.41 behind only TCU (3:03.79) and Texas Tech (3:05.28).
Fields also placed third in the open 400 meters (45.66) in his first conference outdoor meet.
After turning in the fastest prelim time and a career-best 10.12 in the 100 meters, Willis was fifth in both the 100 (10.41) and 200 (20.84).
"I just think getting him back to that level and doing it time and time again, it's just going to take a few more reps," Harbour said of Willis. "I think he's back, Taylor's back. But Kiana Horton, what do you say? She was a warrior. To run that kind of quarter and come back in the 200 and run on both relays, that's amazing."
Following a week off, the Bears will travel to Sacramento, Calif., for the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds on May 24-26 and wrap up the season with the NCAA Championships on June 6-9 in Eugene, Ore.
WACO, Texas -- The Baylor track & field team had seven competitors earn Big 12 titles on the final day of the Big 12 Outdoor Championship Sunday at the Clyde Hart Track & Field Stadium in Waco.
The BU women finished tied for third place and posted the most points when hosting the conference championship with 109 points while the men finished eighth with 63 points. Junior sprinter Kiana Horton earned the female high-point scorer award after she posted 23 points in four events during the championship (200m, 400m, 4x100m relay, 4x400m relay).
The women's 4x100-meter relay team started off running events with a bang as the crew of Kiana Horton, Taylor Bennett, Juanita Mainoo and Raven Grant tied the eight-fastest time in school history to win the title in 43.90.
Aaliyah Miller earned her first outdoor Big 12 title in the 800 meters as she put up the second-best time in program history with 2:02.41, breaking the Big 12 meet record. Leticia De Souza finished ninth with a time of 2:07.32.
Despite falling short in the 100 meters, Taylor Bennett came back and won the 200 meters with 22.87 and had three other Bears right behind her. Kiana Horton was the runner-up with 23.35 while Juanita Mainoo (23.55) and Raven Grant (23.98) finished fourth and eighth, respectively.
Sarah Yocum logged a ninth-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:00.24.
The 4x400-meter relay crew of Victoria Powell, Taylor Bennett, Aaliyah Miller and Kiana Horton took home the Big 12 title after running the fifth-fastest time in program history (3:30.42). The tandem also set a new stadium record.
BU MEN NOTABLES
The Baylor men's team kicked off competition with a runner-up finish in the 4x100-meter relay. The crew of Ian Braxton, Maxwell Willis, Malik Wilson and Wil London clocked 39.43, a new season best.
In the triple jump, Jalen Seals used a mark of 50' 3.5" (15.33m) to earn sixth place for his second outdoor Big 12 honor.
On the track, two-time defending 400-meter champion Wil London did not disappoint as he made it three consecutive Big 12 titles after logging 45.06 in the finals. He becomes just the second Big 12 athlete to win three 400m titles -- Baylor's Darold Williamson won four straight from 2002 to 2005.
Maxwell Willis was the lone scorer in the 100 meters (10.41) and 200 meters (20.84) as he finished fifth in both events.
In the 400-meter hurdles, Antwuan Musgrove had a career day as he raced to a 50.56 time and claimed fourth place.
Danny Leland finished ninth in the 800 meters with a time of 1:53.95.
In the pole vault, Riley B. Richards posted a top-six finish as he went 17' 3.75" (5.28m) for his second All-Big 12 honor this season. Ryan Womack finished just outside scoring position in ninth place with 16' 6" (5.03m) while Greyson Gonzalez was 13th with 16' (4.88m).
ALL-BIG 12 PERFORMERS (21 competitors, 41 honors)
Women (10 competitors, 21 honors)
Taylor Bennett (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay), Brooke Gilmore (5,000m, 10,000m), Raven Grant (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay), Kiana Horton (400m, 200m, 4x100m relay, 4x400m relay), Juanita Mainoo (200m, 4x100m relay), Alex Madlock (triple jump), Aaliyah Miller (800m, 4x400m relay), Megan SaxvanderWeyden (javelin), Tuesdi Tidwell (pole vault), Anna West (5,000m, 10,000m)
Men (11 competitors, 20 honors)
Ian Braxton (4x100m relay), Caleb Dickson (400m, 4x400m relay), Howard Fields III (400m, 4x400m relay), Wil London (400m, 4x100m relay), Devin Meyrer (5,000m, 10,000m), Antwuan Musgrove (400m hurdles, 4x400m relay), Ricky Sanchez (javelin), Riley Richards (pole vault), Jalen Seals (long jump, triple jump), Maxwell Willis (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay, 4x400m relay), Malik Wilson (4x100m relay)
BIG 12 CHAMPIONS (7 competitors, 6 events)
Taylor Bennett (200m, 4x100m relay, 4x400m relay), Raven Grant (4x100m relay), Kiana Horton (400m, 4x100m relay, 4x400m relay), Wil London (400m), Juanita Mainoo (4x100m relay), Aaliyah Miller (800m, 4x400m relay), Victoria Powell (4x400m relay)
21 Bears posted top-eight finishes for all-conference distinction in seven field events (javelin, long jump (m), triple jump, pole vault) and 16 running events (100m, 200m, 400m, 800m (w), 400m hurdles (m), 5,000m, 10,000m, 4x100m relays, 4x400m relays).
The women's team finished in a tie for third place with 109 points, which is the most when hosting the conference championship.
The men's team finished eighth overall with 63 points.
Freshmen Riley Richards, Howard Fields III and Aaliyah Miller earned their first career outdoor track All-Big 12 honors.
Kiana Horton ran a school-record 400-meter race in 51.22 to win the title.
Aaliyah Miller ran a Big 12 meet record and top-two 800m time to win the title.
The Bears had 21 competitors earn 41 All-Big 12 honors.
The Bears had seven competitors claim Big 12 titles in six running events.
TOP QUOTE #1
"We did about all we could do and came on strong. I thought the sprint crew dominated and put on a show and just did everything we could possibly do, across the board. To win that many titles in that area is pretty impressive. To win both relays, the 200, 400 and 800, that's impressive." -head coach Todd Harbour on the women's team
TOP QUOTE #2
"We just came up a few bullets short there. You lose Jayson (Baldridge) in the hurdles. I thought we could finish maybe in the top four or five if we just hit. But losing him was big and not being able to run Wil (London) there at the end, we just came up a little bit short. I thought about 75 points was all we could score on the men's side. We weren't far off." -head coach Todd Harbour on the men's team
The Bears take a week off before qualified entries will compete at the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds taking place May 24-26 in Sacramento, Calif.
Follow the team all season long on their official social media accounts: @BaylorTrack.