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WACO, Texas - Baylor track and field junior sprinters Wil London and Kiana Horton will represent the Bears at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships, running Friday and Saturday, Feb. 9-10 at the Gilliam Indoor Track & Field Stadium in College Station, Texas.
Both competing in the 400 meters, London's preliminary race will begin at 6:25 p.m. CT on Friday, followed by Horton's prelim at 6:40 p.m. If either qualify a top-eight time, the finals will be at 4:50 p.m. (men) and 5 p.m. (women) on Saturday.
Historically, Baylor has four female and 24 male 400-meter Indoor All-Americans and four male national champions in the event. A berth in the final for Horton would make her the first female 400-meter Indoor All-American since 1999. London was the last Bear to earn All-America honors in 2016.
Horton, the Big 12 women's 400-meter champion, comes in with the 11th-fastest time of 52.60 posted at the Big 12 Indoor Championship on Feb. 24. Her 52.60 mark is the third-fastest 400-meter time in program history. Horton also recorded two other team-leading marks this season in the event.
London also comes into the event with the 11th-fastest 400-meter time of 45.95 which he performed at the Tyson Invitational on Feb. 10. His mark boosted him into Baylor's top-10 all-time list in the event where he is the seventh-fastest indoor performer and first Bear to crack the list since 2007.
Horton looks for her first individual and second overall Indoor All-America honor while London looks for his second individual and third overall national honor this weekend.
Horton earned national honors as part of the fifth-place 4x400-meter relay team last season, clocking an indoor school-record time of 3:30.60. London earned honors as part of the 4x400-meter relay his freshman season in 2016, running 3:05.23. He also earned an eighth-place finish with a time of 46.88 to earn All-America honors in the 400 meters at the same meet.
A recap and results can be found at the conclusion of each day of competition at BaylorBears.com.
ESPN3 will stream the meet live starting at 5:30 p.m. CT March 9 and starting at 4 p.m. CT March 10. A re-air of the championship will take place starting at 6 p.m. CT Sunday, March 11 on ESPN2.
For live results this weekend, follow the team on Twitter: @BaylorTrack.
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Wil London and Kiana Horton aren't worried about rankings or predictions going into the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships that start Friday in College Station.
Baylor's only two entrants, the fewest in the six years under the meet's current format, the junior quarter-milers are both ranked 11th in a field of 16 runners in the men's and women's 400-meter prelims.
"I don't really pay too much attention to rankings," said London, a three-time All-American who also finished third at least year's USATF Outdoor Championships. "I know at this time of year, anything can change. Look at the USA Championships, I wasn't even supposed to make it out of the first round and ended up coming in third in the finals.
"I feel like if I just go out and run my race - I've competed against these guys before - it's just going to come down to who wants it more and who shows up on what day."
With an indoor personal-best time of 45.95 that he ran at last month's Tyson Invitational, London is just 11 hundredths of a second behind eighth-ranked Robert Grayson of Texas A&M. The top eight finishers from Friday's 5:25 p.m. prelims at the Gilliam Indoor Track & Field Stadium advance to Saturday's 4:50 p.m. final.
"As long as everyone runs a healthy, clean race and not a lot of pushing and shoving, that can change the race a lot," he said. "That can change going from 44.5 to 44.9, just by getting a slight shove and knocking you off your game. If I just execute my race and turn it on the right time, anything can happen indoors."
While London has been bothered by a hamstring injury since last outdoor season, coach Todd Harbour said he's finally healthy and capable of running with the best in the country.
"Wil knows what he can do," Harbour said. "I think getting him to a place where he could trust his leg and the hamstring, that was a big deal. It just took a little longer than we had hoped for, but I think he feels pretty good right now and he's ready. If he goes out there and executes, he knows he can beat anybody in the country."
This is the fourth time London has made it to an NCAA Championship meet in the 400 meters. He placed eighth at the 2016 indoor meet and eighth again at last year's outdoor meet and missed the outdoor finals as a freshman when he placed 14th.
"Just coming off the hamstring injury, it's kind of hard to judge because I haven't had an individual race since I sat down," said London, whose last open 400 was the Tyson Invitational on Feb. 10. "I can't really tell what my body's prepared for, but I can say I'm going to go out there and compete and give it my all."
For Horton, this is new territory.
She has been part of Baylor's 4x400 relay teams that won back-to-back conference indoor crowns in 2016 and '17 and placed fifth at last year's NCAA Indoor Championships with a school-record time of 3:30.60.
But, Horton had not run an open 400 race on the collegiate level until winning last month's Power Five Invitational in Ann Arbor, Mich., with a time of 53.37 that cracked Baylor's all-time top 10 list. Her first two years at Baylor, she had stuck with the 60 and 200 meters indoors and 100 and 200 meters outdoors.
"Me and my mom were actually the ones who talked to them about running the quarter again," said Horton, who placed fifth in the 400 at the 2013 5A state meet in her sophomore year at Converse Judson. "They were surprised to hear I wanted to run the quarter. Coach (Michael) Ford wasn't, because he remembered when I was a sophomore in high school that I had run the 400 at state. Coach Ford was all for me running (the 400). He kind of changed my training a little so that I did a little more open distance than what the regular sprinters do."
Horton remembers the 400 being her first love through middle school, summer track and her first two high school seasons. But, switching to the 200, she was the state runner-up as a junior and then won the 6A state title as a senior in 2014 with a time of 23.10.
"It's just a matter of you've got to want to move up to run the 400. It's a tough race," Harbour said. "It's a testament to Kiana that she told Coach Ford, `I want to run the quarter and I want to try to run it in the conference meet.' To go from that to being a Big 12 champion in her first year, that's pretty remarkable."
Ranked second in both the 200 (23.39) and 400 (53.37) going into the Big 12 meet, Horton won the 400 with a sizzling time of 52.60 that earned her a spot in the NCAA Championships with the third-fastest time in school history.
"Going into the meet, my coach was telling me I needed a 52.8 if I wanted to try and secure a spot," she said. "So, 52.8 was obviously on my mind when I was preparing for my race. When I crossed the line and saw my time, I said, `Oh my, I can't believe I just made it.' At that point, I remember that the fast heat was still coming behind me, so I had to keep my composure and wait to see what they were going to run to see where I stood in the Big 12."
Like London, Horton is not worried about going into the meet with the 11th-fastest time. She's only about a half-second behind fifth-ranked Briana Guillory of Iowa.
"I feel like my chances are really high," she said. "When it comes to nationals, everybody's had a full indoor season, everybody's anxious about outdoors. It's just about keeping my composure. And at that point, it's anybody's race. We're all running fast."
ESPN3 will have live video streaming starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday, with a replay of the championship at 6 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.