Track to host Michael Johnson Classic Saturday

At the Michael Johnson/Dr. Pepper Classic Saturday, April 23, 2011, steeplechaser Taylor Jackson competes against other Texas schools, coming in 10th place at the Hart Patterson Track and Field Complex. Matt Hellman | Lariat Photographer
Steeplechaser Taylor Jackson competes against other Texas schools, placing 10th at the Michael Johnson Dr Pepper Classic on April 23, 2011, at the Hart Patterson Track and Field Complex.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

By Savannah Pullin

For many people, simply having the opportunity to meet professional athletes is a dream come true.

The athletes of Baylor’s top-20 track and field teams, however, have much more to anticipate this weekend.

The Bears will host tough competition Saturday at the Hart-Patterson Track and Field Complex as they compete in the Michael Johnson Dr Pepper Classic.

Among schools such as TCU, UT Arlington, and 22 other schools, Waco will see the talents of Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross, scheduled to compete in the 400 meters, and former Baylor All-Americans Tiffany Townsend (100m), LaKadron Ivery (100m, 200m), Marcus Boyd (400m) and Michael Liggins (400m).

Sophomore Tiffani McReynolds said the presence of such great athletes brings encouragement and inspiration as she prepares to run at home for the first and only time this season.

“There are definitely a lot of stars and people who you look up to like Sanya and Jeremy [Wariner], and of course Michael Johnson,” McReynolds said. “It’s really cool to see when they come out here, and it just kind of pumps us up as a team because of the Baylor pride. It’s a really fun experience.”

Head coach Todd Harbour shared the same inspirational view as McReynolds, saying it helps his athletes to see what their futures could hold.

“To see [Richards-Ross] out here training every day, it helps your athletes know that if you continue to work hard, those are the possibilities in front of you,” Harbour said. “Michael Johnson started out here just like all these guys did.”

Harbour said on Tuesday that entries were still being taken for the meet.

Many athletes, such as junior Everett Walker, are anxious to see if they will have the opportunity to run against some of the best in the country.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Walker said. “Hopefully I get to run against them. Last year a couple of guys ran against them, and I haven’t had that chance yet. I’m hoping I get that chance this week.”

The Baylor athletes seem to be feeling the pressure more this week as they prepare for the lone home meet of the season.

While McReynolds has been recruiting fans to come out to the meet and support her and her teammates, she continued to keep in mind her one goal for the weekend.

“I’m a little bit nervous this time just because last year I wasn’t able to get that number one at home, which was kind of heart-breaking for me, so this year I have the pressure on myself to go ahead and bring home the gold since we are at home,” McReynolds said.

McReynolds admitted that her nerves get to her a little bit more during home meets because of the home crowd and the home pressure.

However, she said it is also more comforting running on the track she spends so many hours practicing on.

“This is the track that we die on almost every day,” McReynolds said. “So we’re very comfortable with this track.”

On the other hand, Walker said he’s just excited to get a chance to perform in front of familiar faces at this level.

“It’s more comfortable [running at home],” Walker said. “I just can’t wait to run in front of family and friends for the first time this year, so it will be pretty exciting.”

However, Walker said he feels some heat as he tries to move into the top five in the NCAA rankings.

“You can say there’s a lot of pressure because everyone who’s coming out expects you to run well because it’s the home meet,” Walker said. “Who wouldn’t want to run well in front of the home crowd?”

Field events begin at 9:30 a.m.