Jan. 11, 2007
Most first-year head coaches, especially a dual track and field and cross country head coach, would embrace the opportunity for a break and reflect on the success that had been achieved. In Todd Harbour's case, he couldn't wait until the start of his second season. On the plane trip back from the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Harbour was already looking forward to 2007.
With a strong corps of women's middle distance and distance runners, a strong corps of men's sprinters and an outstanding incoming freshman class, Harbour will be happy when the anticipation is replaced by live competition.
"There is a lot of anticipation," Harbour said. "We are just waiting to get started. After the fall, it didn't take long to get my batteries recharged."
The Baylor track and field team will be younger than it has been in recent years, so Harbour knows there will be trials, but believes his team will be its strongest in the end. Maybe even strong enough to break into the upper echelon of the NCAA.
"It's hard for me to say how good we'll be," Harbour said. "There are a few question marks and we are asking a lot of freshmen to step up. But, we have an NCAA champion and 11 All-Americans returning and this is by far one of the best overall sprint crew we've had on the men's side."
According to Harbour, the sprinters will "have big shoes to fill" with the departure of All-Americans Angel Perkins and Kandace Tucker and Marquisha Sefas, who were each key members on either the 4x100- or 4x400-meter relays or both.
Junior Carla Grace will be asked to step up as the leader of the corps as a two-time All-America, two-time all-region and five-time All-Big 12 selection. Sophomore Katrina Taylor had a great start to her career, earning All-America honors on the 4x400-meter relay, capturing the conference title in the event and earning All-Big 12 honors in the open 400.
A trio of first-year runners will be called upon to solidify the short sprints. Tiana Hood redshirted her first year at Baylor, while true freshmen Jessica Gregory and De Ana Carson will be expected to make an immediate impact.
Seniors Rena Napoleon and Lauren Tillman add depth in the 400; however, Tillman, a four-time All-Big 12 honoree, and sophomore Rachael Long should make a bigger contribution outdoors in the intermediate hurdles.
Bedell was outstanding in her freshman season, capturing the Big 12 indoor 3,000-meter title, anchoring the Bears to a fifth-place finish in the distance medley relay at the NCAA Indoor Championships, finishing as the runner-up in the 1,500 meters at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships and placing 10th at the World Junior Championships. Hagans also ran on the All-American distance medley relay, earned all-region and All-Big 12 honors in the 800 and broke her own school record in the indoor 1,000 meters. Waller, who only has outdoor eligibility remaining, ran on the distance medley relay and was an All-Big 12 selection in the 1,500 meters.
Also in the middle distances, sophomore Charity Williams returns after earning All-Big 12 honors indoors and outdoors. Danielle Bradley, Renae Van Whye and Loren Hodges arrived on campus with numerous high school honors, enjoyed impressive falls and will be counted on for immediate help as rookies. Adrian Robison, Jessi Barnes and Kathryn Benvegnu will add considerable depth.
Freshman Nichole Jones, one of the nation's top distance runners a year ago, has tremendous range, so Harbour will wait and see at which distance she can make the best contribution.
In the distance events, the Bears welcome the return of Brittany Brockman, who missed nearly the entire 2006 track and field season and the cross country season with an injury. She was an All-American and the Big 12 runner-up in the 10,000 meters as a junior.
Junior Brittany Devereaux has had two outstanding seasons, shattering the school record in the discus while earning all-region and All-Big 12 honors twice. The coaching staff expects Devereaux to make more of an impact indoors as the school record holder in the weight throw. Sophomore Stasia Kelly-Taylor will build upon her first season in the triple jump, while Gregory and Carson will compete in the long jump.
The men's sprinting group has the potential to be the deepest and most talented group in Baylor's long history, with Harbour admitting the team had the "best fall we've had in a long time." The Bears hope to have NCAA indoor 60-meter champion Jacob Norman back in time for the end of the indoor season after undergoing hip surgery during the offseason. Norman, the 2006 Big 12 Indoor Freshman of the Year, broke the school record in the 60 meters and anchored the 4x100-meter relay to the Big 12 title.
Senior Reggie Witherspoon had an amazing junior campaign, earning the Big 12 Indoor Athlete of the Year honor, All-America honors in the 200 meters, capturing the Big 12 indoor and outdoor 400-meter titles, the indoor 200-meter title and running on three conference championship relays. Quentin Iglehart-Summers enjoyed a tremendous freshman season, capped by the United States Junior 400-meter title and running on the U.S. gold medal 4x400-meter relay at the Junior World Championships. He was the runner-up to Witherspoon at the Big 12 Indoor Championships in the 400 meters and ran on both the Bears' Big 12 champion relays.
Senior Mark Teter is a veteran of the 4x400-meter relay and is the only Bear with a national title in the event to his credit. Junior Jeremy Jackson came on strong in the hurdles toward the end of the outdoor season and looks to continue that success going into the indoor season. Freshman Courtney Thomas redshirted last season, but had an impressive fall and is expected to make an impact in the short sprints.
Four freshman will make an immediate impact at Baylor and are the centerpiece of the men's recruiting class which was ranked No. 2 nationally. LeJerald Betters was one of the nation's top 400-meter runners last year, while two-sport standout David Gettis, who doubles as a wide receiver on the football team, was the top prep quarter-miler in 2005.
Trey Harts was the national indoor champion in the 200 meters and has the range to run the 100, 200 and 400 meters. J.T. Scheuerman also has the range to run all three events and was one of the nation's best last year in both the 200 and 400.
"Without even stepping on the track their presence pushed the other guys to have a great fall," Harbour said. "I can't wait to get the season started - they're going to be fun to watch."
This group will have to overcome the loss of All-American Wil Fitts.
Leading the way will be senior Kevin Mutai, the Big 12 Indoor 600 champion, who is expected to make a commitment to the 800 meters in 2007.
John Robertson, Bo Price and Mitch Sanders, all of whom have played a role on the Bears' successful distance medley relays, comprise the rest of the returning distance corps along with Sterling Farmer and Jacob Jones. Freshman Ben Haby is also expected to bolster Baylor's middle distance/distance group.
Senior Chris Cardwell returns after setting the school records in both the hammer and the weight throw.
Baylor will lose a lot of points from the long jump with the departure of All-American and Big 12 champion Chris Gillis and All-Big 12 performer Queito Teasley's decision to focus on football full-time.
"We would like to have more depth in the field events," Harbour said. "But, this is where we are right now. We had a lot of quality sprinters who wanted to come to Baylor and we felt they gave us the best chance on the national level. We will diversify more next year, though."