June 9, 2017
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
EUGENE, Ore. - Annie Rhodes is certainly no Bridezilla.
With her wedding day just four weeks away, instead of sweating out any last-minute plans or stressing over things like flowers and cake decorations, the Baylor senior was pole-vaulting at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
And even when she missed on her third and final attempt at 14-7 ¼, Rhodes popped up off the mat with a big smile and waved to the Hayward Field crowd in appreciation. Her dreams of a national title gone, she finished third and earned her first outdoor All-American with a best of 14-5 ¼.
"It's bittersweet, because who doesn't want to be a national champion?" said Rhodes, a three-time All-American overall whose previous best outdoors was a tie for 10th at the 2015 meet. "But, I can't say that I didn't give it my best every time, and I still jumped well. I can't give enough glory to the Lord, because jumping is great, but to me He's better. I'm just thankful."
Passing on the opening height, Rhodes had first-jump clearances at 13-7 ¼, 14-1 ¼ and 14-5 ¼ to move into a first-place tie with defending champion Alexis Weeks of Arkansas as the only vaulters with no misses.
"It kind of takes off the pressure," she said. "Every bar you make, you're like, `OK, at least I got All-American,' or `OK, at least I've got top five.' Every time, your confidence grows. I knew once I got 14-5 on my first try, I knew I was going to be top five. As much as I definitely wanted to win, top five, who can complain?"
After clipping the bar on the way down on her second attempt at 14-7 ¼, Rhodes said she was "100 percent" confident she would make it on her last try.
"When you come up short like that, you just know exactly what you need to do on the next one in order to fix it," she said. "It wasn't really a technical error or a pole or standard error. You just have to hit it harder, be more aggressive, and that's what I'm all about. So yeah, I thought I could get it. And I was close, but that's OK."
Kentucky's Olivia Gruver won the title with a career-best 14-9, while Weeks was second at 14-7 ¼. Three others cleared 14-5 ¼, but Rhodes was third based on the fewest misses, followed by Indiana's Sydney Clute, Kristina Owsinski of Washington and Victoria Weeks of Arkansas, Alexis' twin sister.
"It's indescribable to think about all that I got to accomplish here at Baylor," Rhodes said. "Sure, the national championship would have been great, but I'm more than thankful for third place. I just want to give all the glory to God, because He is the reason I have this ability to pole vault."
It was another tough day for the Bears on the track. A day after quarter-miler Wil London was the only one of Baylor's six entries to make it through to the finals, the women went 0-for-5.
With only the top eight advancing to Saturday's finals, both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays finished fifth in their heat and 12th overall with times of 44.58 and 3:34.27.
A longshot even before soccer's Raegan Padgett filled in as the leadoff leg, the 4x100 relay never recovered from a slow handoff between Taylor Bennett and Juanita Manoo, with freshman anchor Jhane' King unable to close the gap on frontrunners Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas State and Texas.
Then, in the night's last race of the night, sophomore Kiana Horton returned from a hamstring injury she suffered two weeks ago in the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds and ran a solid third leg of the 4x400. Junior Leti De Souza ran the second-fastest anchor leg, but started too far back and couldn't catch automatic qualifiers Texas (3:30.79) and LSU (3:32.26).
"Leti was just a little too far back," coach Todd Harbour said. "We just needed to put her in a little better position. If she's five or six yards (back), she would have been in. She just ran out of juice. I feel for those girls, because they've had a great year."
London, who qualified with the seventh-fastest time for Friday's 400-meter finals, was the only one of Baylor's 11 entries on the track that advanced through the semifinals. Bennett was 16th in the 100 (11.47) and 13th in the 200 (23.28), while Kiana Hawn was 20th in the 400 hurdles.
"We'll fight with what we've got left," Harbour said. "We've got Wil and Felix (Obi in the triple jump) tomorrow, then we've got the triple jumpers on Saturday. But, that's it. And we've been good on the track all year. Not to have anybody other than Wil running in the finals, that's a tough one. But, we've got a bunch of young ones and we'll be back."
Other than London in the 400 and Obi in the men's triple jump, Jenna Pfeiffer will get started in the heptathlon with the 100-meter hurdles at 2:30 p.m. CDT Friday.
EUGENE, Ore. - Baylor track and field senior Annie Rhodes placed third in the pole vault competition at the NCAA Outdoor Championships Thursday at Hayward Field.
After passing on the opening bar of the competition, Rhodes entered and proceeded to not have a miss on the next three bars at 13-7.25 [4.15m], 14-1.25 [4.30m] and 14-5.25 [4.40m]. At that point, the bar was raised to 14-7.25 [4.45m] and the senior from Waco, Texas was one of six athletes left. However, Rhodes was unable to clear that height, narrowly missing on her final two attempts as she hit the bar on her way down. With the third-place finish, Rhodes is the first BU female athlete to score during the outdoor national meet in the pole vault.
Both of Baylor's relay squads finished 12th on the day, which was outside of the top-eight placing needed to advance.
To close out the night, Baylor's 4x400-meter relay of Victoria Powell, Kiana Hawn, Kiana Horton and Leticia De Souza, placed fifth in its heat and 12th overall with a time of 3:34.27. Powell led off with a split of 54.32, which had the Bears in fourth at the first exchange. On the next leg, Hawn (53.89) was fifth at the break-in and kept the Bears with the lead pack. Horton split 53.72 on the third carry to keep the Bears in fifth, but the gap behind the leaders was extended. Despite a 52.06 anchor, De Souza was unable to catch any of the four teams in front of BU.
The women's 4x100-meter relay of Raegan Padgett, Taylor Bennett, Juanita Mainoo and Jhane' King opened the day by taking 12th in a time of 44.58. The Bears seemed to have a slow second handoff, which cost them some time as they took sixth in their heat.
Individually on the track, BU's three entries missed out on advancing to Saturday's finals as each need to finish top-two in a semifinal heat or as one of the next two fastest times.
Junior Kiana Hawn enjoyed a great start in the 400-meter hurdles and was near the lead when she clipped the fourth hurdle with her trail leg. That slight mishap threw, the Forney, Texas, native, off her rhythm and she ended up finishing eighth in her heat and 20th overall with a time of 1:00.80.
Sophomore Taylor Bennett was the only women's athlete to qualify in two individual events. However, she did not make the finals in either events. In the 100 meters, Bennett had a solid start, but lost ground to the leaders of her heat between 25 and 50 meters. She closed that gap in the latter half of race to finish fifth in her heat and tied for 16th overall in 11.47.
Later in the day in the 200 meters, Bennett placed fourth in her heat and 13th overall with a time of 23.28. The sophomore was seventh with 70 meters to go, but thanks to a strong close she moved up to fourth, which was good enough to be the final qualifier on time. However, after the next two semifinal races were run, Bennett was knocked out of Saturday's final.
BU's other field event participant, Cion Hicks, concluded her career by placing 20th in the shot put. The Copperas Cove, Texas, product opened with a throw of 50-7.5 [15.43m] and then improved to 52-6 [16.00m] on her second attempt. That ended up being her best throw of the day.
Rhodes' vault was tied for the fifth-best of her career.
Rhodes captured her first outdoor All-American honor, after previously earning the accolade twice during the indoor season. She was second in 2017 and eighth in 2015.
Rhodes' third-place finish gave BU six points in the team standings where the Bears are currently tied for 14th with more points projected to come on Saturday.
TOP QUOTE #1
"I'm just so happy for Annie Rhodes, because of who she is and what she's meant to this program. And the same thing for Cion Hicks. Cion didn't have a great day, but man, those are two outstanding young ladies that have done a lot for Baylor University. I can't say enough." - head coach Todd Harbour
TOP QUOTE #2
"Bittersweet, because who doesn't want to be a national champion? But, I can't say that I didn't give it my best every time and I still jumped well. I can't give enough glory to the Lord, because yeah jumping is great, but to me He's better. I'm just thankful. - senior Annie Rhodes
On Friday, Jenna Pfeiffer will begin competition in the heptathlon at 12:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. CT) with the 100-meter hurdles and then three more events to follow throughout the day. Meanwhile, senior Felix Obi will take part in the triple jump at 5:40 p.m. (7:40 p.m. CT). On the track, sophomore Wil London runs in the 400-meter final at 6:32 p.m. (8:32 p.m. CT).
To stay current on all things Baylor Track, follow the team on Twitter: @BaylorTrack.
COMPLETE BAYLOR RESULTS
Q or q = Advanced to Event Final
100 Meters Semifinal
t16. Taylor Bennett (SO) - 11.47
200 Meters Semifinal
Women 13. Taylor Bennett (SO) - 23.28
400 Hurdles Semifinal
20. Kiana Hawn (JR) - 1:00.80
3. Annie Rhodes (SR) - 14-5.25 [4.40m] (tied for 5th-best school history, first outdoor All-American honor)
20. Cion Hicks (SR) - 52-6 [16.00m]