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Demart Clears Hurdles To Become Baylor Track Star

May 29, 2001

Editor's Note: Articles such as this one by Larry Little appear in each edition of the Baylor Bear Insider Report, available upon membership in the Baylor Bear Foundation. For information on joining the Bear Foundation, click here.

Chava Demart has jumped her share of hurdles while at Baylor. A junior on the Bears' women's track and field team, Demart has battled adversity to become one of the top intermediate hurdlers in the Big 12 Conference . . . and the best in Baylor history.

A product of Cypress Creek High School in Cypress, Texas, Demart came to Baylor in the fall of 1998. During the ensuing season, she learned the ropes of collegiate track. Demart competed in the 55 meters and the 60 meters during the indoor season. When the outdoor season rolled around, she tried her lot at the 100 meters, the 200 meters and as a member of Baylor 4x100-meter relay team. She helped that relay team to an NCAA provisional qualifying mark of 44.59 seconds at the Abilene Christian Classic.

But a solid freshman season came to a crashing halt late in the year.

Demart suffered two stress fractures in her left shin. Season over. Demart spent the summer and the fall of 1999 in rehabilitation, getting ready for her sophomore indoor season. In the first meet of the year -- Dec. 4 in Norman, Okla. -- Demart suffered another stress fracture, this time in her right shin.

However, Demart did not cave in, and the resilient sprinter returned to competition by the end of January. And Feb. 6 at the Gator Invitational, Demart made her presence felt, as the third leg of the 4x400-meter relay team, she helped the Bears to an NCAA provisional qualifying mark of 3:40.47. Her hard work paid more dividends at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, again as the third leg, Demart helped Baylor to a sixth-place finish in the 4x400 with a time of 3:34.43.

During the 2001 indoor season, Demart blossomed as a quarter-miler. She finished seventh at the Big 12 Indoor Championships in the event with a 55.40-second clocking. She also finished fourth at the Sooner Indoor Classic and fifth at the Oklahoma All-Comers meet. And while fellow junior and quarter-miler Barbara Petrahn was out during the indoor season battling her own injuries, Demart assumed the role of anchor leg on the 4x400 team. She helped the Bears to a second-place finish in the event at the conference championships as well as a fifth-place finish at the Southwest Indoor Classic.

After jumping the hurdles of injuries during her first two seasons at Baylor, though, Demart faced a new challenge at the beginning of the 2001 outdoor season -- actual hurdles. So far, the results have been astounding.

Consider: In her first-ever 400-meter hurdles race, Demart finished second at the UTSA Relays with a time of 1:02.30. Two weeks later, she established a meet record at the Tellez Invitational in Houston with a first-place mark of 1:00.29. Three weeks later, on Baylor's track at the Michael Johnson Classic, Demart shattered her personal best and the school record with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 58.93 seconds. The previous school mark was 59.34 seconds set by Qing Qing Pan during the 1992 season.

Demart has not stopped there, though. May 5 at the Texas Invitational in Austin, she lowered her own school record to 58.52 seconds. Going into the Big 12 Championships, Demart ranked third in the conference and 25th in the NCAA in the intermediate hurdles.

Despite all this, Demart feels she has a long way to go before reaching her potential in the hurdles.

"I've been working to be a good quarter-miler," Demart said. "Where I need help in the hurdles is with my form. I'm a little weak with my right leg when I lead with it. I need to get where I can come to a hurdle and not need to shift. Right now, I have to focus on making sure I come to a hurdle where I can go over with my left leg."

Baylor assistant head coach Danny Brabham, who works with the hurdlers, agrees that Demart can be even better.

"She can improve, and she will improve once she finds her niche and learns to enjoy hurdling," he said. "With her injury problems, she was struggling with her leading steps. That disturbed her early on, but she's really working on that."

But there has been more to Demart than hurdles this spring season. She has seen time with the 4x100-meter relay team, the 4x200-meter relay team, the 4x400-meter relay team and the sprint medley relay team. Her second leg in the 4x100 helped Baylor to a first-place finish and a provisional time of 44.57 seconds at the Michael Johnson Classic. Demart also joined Ssereta Lafayette, Keisa Brown and Barbara Petrahn for first-place finishes at the Drake Relays and at the Texas A&M All-Comers Meet.

DEMART RAN THE second leg with the 4x200 team that finished second at the Drake Relays. Also at the Drake, Demart's opening leg of 23.50 seconds in the 200 helped Baylor's sprint medley relay team to a third-place showing.

Her second-leg split of 54.03 seconds in the 4x400-meter relay helped Baylor to a second-place time of 3:35.34 at the Texas Relays. That NCAA provisional mark ranks 19th in the nation.

Head coach Clyde Hart said Demart's emergence this season was expected.

"Chava has been a pleasant surprise, but this is what we hoped she would be able to do," Hart said. "She helped us a lot in her first two years, but she has really come along this year with relays and the hurdles this year."

Demart said she chose Baylor for several reasons.

"A lot of people from the Houston area come to Baylor," she said. "But the main thing was that I thought about where I would want to go if I was not an athlete. Baylor just seemed to be the perfect choice."

This year, as her hurdling career has begun, Demart has been able to look to another Baylor athlete from the Houston area -- Westbury High School's Bayano Kamani -- for guidance. Kamani's resume in the hurdles is not too shabby. In 1999, he won the 400-meter hurdles NCAA title. This year, he leads the NCAA in the event and is ranked ninth in the world.

"He's helped," Demart said. "I ask Bayano for advice. 'Am I coming over the hurdles too high?' Stuff like that. He's been helpful."

Brabham said Demart's future in the hurdles is definitely a bright one.

"SHE'S GOING TO BE a factor in the hurdles," Brabham said. "She's 25th right now, and she's got nowhere to go but up. And with the way our conference goes, you never know. The key point for Chava will be when she starts enjoying hurdles more. She's worked extensively with hurdles this year. I think once she sees how good a hurdler she could be, that enjoyment will be there."

And with each race, Demart's level of enjoyment seems to grow.

"Now that I've broken 60-seconds, I know I can go faster," Demart said. "By the conference meet, I want to be able to go in the low 58s."

Breaking 58 seconds would move Demart into the top 16 nationally and probably into the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore.

For Demart, clearing hurdles seems to come naturally.

Editor's Note: Articles such as this one by Larry Little appear in each edition of the Baylor Bear Insider Report, available upon membership in the Baylor Bear Foundation. For information on joining the Bear Foundation, click here.



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