May 29, 2007
WACO, Texas -
LeJerald Betters and Nichole Jones were each named Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Freshmen of the Year the league office announced on Tuesday. Also, Baylor received six at-large berths to the NCAA Championships based on season-best times and Midwest Regional performances.
Martin Smith (Oklahoma) was named Men's Coach of the Year for the first time, while Pat Henry (Texas A&M) earned his second Big 12 Women's Coach of the Year accolade. Kansas State's Scott Sellers was named Men's Outdoor Performer of the Year and Simone Facey of Texas A&M claimed Women's Outdoor Performer of the Year. Jordan Scott (Kansas) shared Male Freshman of the Year honors with Betters.
"These are outstanding awards for LeJerald and Nichole," said head coach Todd Harbour. "To be recognized as the best freshmen in the Big 12 Conference is a great accomplishment and honor. These two have worked really hard this season, and it is good to see that their dedication is paying off at the right time of the season."
Betters (Waco, Texas) won the men's 400 meters at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships with a season-best time of 45.33, the third-fastest time in the nation this season. The freshman now ranks 12th on Baylor's all-time list in the 400 meters; elite company considering the 11 athletes ahead of him own 28 NCAA National Championships and six Olympic Gold medals. Betters finished second to teammate Quentin Iglehart-Summers (San Antonio, Texas) in the 400 meters at the NCAA Midwest Regional last weekend.
Betters ran the anchor leg on Baylor's Big 12 Championship 4x400-meter relay team that posted a time of 3:03.94, its tenth straight victory at the Big 12 outdoor meet. Betters split time of 44.5 seconds gave Baylor the win by nearly two seconds. Last weekend, Betters ran a 45.0 second-leg as Baylor set the nation's leading time in the 4x400-meter relay at 3:01.66, the fifth-fastest time in the world.
Jones (Spring, Texas) claims her second freshman of the year award, as she earned meet honors at the 2007 Big 12 Indoor Championships. The freshman, who graduated a year early from high school, won the women's 800 meters at the outdoor meet with a school record time of 2:05.89, becoming the youngest athlete in Big 12 history to win a conference outdoor title (18 years, 44 days). In February, Jones became the youngest Big 12 Champion in league history (17 years, 332 days) as she won the 1,000 meters at the 2007 Big 12 Indoor Championships, setting Baylor and Big 12 meet records.
Last weekend, Jones lowered her personal best time in the 800 meters at the NCAA Midwest Regional, clocking 2:05.70 to finish sixth. Junior Lauren Hagans (Little Rock, Ark.), however, claimed the school record, beating Jones by one-hundredth of a second to finish in 2:05.69.
On Tuesday, the NCAA announced at-large invitations to the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships set for next week in Sacramento, Calif. Athletes finishing in the top five in individual events, and top three in relay events, were given automatic qualification to the NCAA meet. Athletes that finished in the top 12 of each event were eligible for at-large berths, given out according to rank on the descending order list and equality among the four regions.
Carla Grace (San Antonio, Texas) earned an at-large berth in the 200 meters after a ninth place finish at the Midwest Regional and a season-best of 23.19, good for 17th-fastest on the descending order list of eligible athletes. Jones also earned an at-large berth in the women's 800 meters. Her top time of 2:05.70 was good for sixth place at the regional meet, and also ranked 17th on the descending order list.
On the men's side, J.T. Scheuerman (Littleton, Colo.) received an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships in the 400 meters. Scheuerman clocked 46.63 at the Midwest Regional meet preliminaries, and finished sixth in the finals in 46.69. The freshman ranks 26th on the descending order list, and received the last at-large spot in the quartermile.
"We are very excited that Carla, Nichole, and J.T. were recognized for their achievements this season," said Harbour. "Between these individuals and all four of our relay teams, Baylor will be well represented at the NCAA meet."
Both the men's and women's teams qualified their 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays. The men's 4x400-meter relay earned an automatic qualification for winning the Midwest Regional. The women's 4x400-meter relay finished fifth at the region meet, and qualified with a time of 3:34.31, the 14th-fastest on the descending order list.
The men's 4x100-meter relay took sixth at the region meet, and recorded a season-best time of 39.63, the 11th-fastest on the eligible descending order list. The women's sprint relay placed seventh at the Midwest Regional, and qualified with the 18th-fastest time at 44.89.
All told, Baylor has seven individual and four relay participants for the NCAA Championships, bringing the Bears' travel total to nine men and 11 women, one more than the 19 student-athlete Baylor took to Sacramento in 2006.. The Bears will compete in the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 6-9 at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex in Sacramento, Calif.
Baylor NCAA Participants
Lauren Hagans, 800 meters
LeJerald Betters, 400 meters
Quentin Iglehart-Summers, 400 meters
Reggie Witherspoon, 200 meters
Men's 4x400-Meter Relay
At-Large Berth Recipients
Carla Grace, 200 meters
Nichole Jones, 800 meters
J.T. Scheuerman, 400 meters
Women's 4x100-Meter Relay
Women's 4x400-Meter Relay
Men's 4x100-Meter Relay