By Tori Jackson
The Baylor track and field team will host the 2014 Michael Johnson Dr. Pepper Classic this Saturday. The Bears will run the lanes of the Hart-Patterson Track and Field Complex for the last time in Baylor history.
“I was thinking more of my senior year, then I was talking to a lot of the alumni and just thinking about how much history this track has and just what it means to everyone who runs now and all the alum from before,” senior decathlete Henry Vildosola said. “It is a big honor to be the last group that is going to be able to compete on this track, so I just hope we finish off strong.”
Joining Baylor, the event will feature runners from Angelo State, George Mason, SMU (women), TCU, Texas, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tulsa and UTA. “It’s a good meet,” Vildosola said. “I think a lot of the schools that are competing are looking for one last meet that is competitive, but not too long, just so they can get their team ready for the big conference meets and post season. It’s usually a good meet, really competitive.”
Going into Saturday’s meet, the men’s team is ranked No. 13 and the women’s team is ranked No. 17.
“We are good,” head coach Todd Harbour said. “The men have sustained some big blows. When you lose Felix Obi, a national champion that is tough. We lost Richard Gary, one of our top 400 guys to the season and George Caddick, one of our top guys from England. He is probably out, but we are trying to get him back.”
Despite injuries, coach Harbour says that the men are still battling very hard to have an impressive conference meet and says that the women are in a good place to score a lot of points in conference play.
“For us as a team, it’s really going to be about a lot of the younger guys stepping up and definitely the older guys, injury has left us a little short-handed going into the later part of the season,” Vildosola said. “It is going to be really important for a lot of people. For me, it is going to be a good meet to get tuned up for conference so that I am confident going into the bigger meets. I want to finish strong for my senior year and for this track and what is has meant to everyone who has come through.”
This is Baylor’s final collegiate event at this venue. Next season, Baylor will move to the new on-campus complex, the Clyde Hart Track and Field Stadium. The new $18.1-million facility will be adjacent to McLane Stadium and is scheduled for completion in time for the 2014-15 season.
“It’s always a great joy for us to honor Michael (Johnson) because of the recognition he brought to Baylor University,” Harbour said. “Some of the times in the 90’s when things were not as good for some other sports, you got a guy winning gold medals and breaking records in the Olympics, and that’s pretty special. Baylor has always held great moments in sports history and I think Michael was a part of that in the 90’s and he was able to contribute in a big way. It is always nice for us to be able to recognize him.
The 2014 Michael Johnson Dr. Pepper Classic will begin with field events on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Afternoon running events are scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m.
Prior to the evening running events beginning at 5:00 p.m., seniors will be recognized and the last lap at Hart-Patterson Track and Field Complex will take place.
The Baylor Bears will then travel to Des Moines, Iowa to compete in the Drake Relays starting on April 24.