Track & field teams look to stand out at Power Five Invitational

Baylor freshman sprinter Morgan Stewart and senior hurdler Kiana Hawn battle for inside position against Oklahoma State. Photo Credit: Baylor Athletics

By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor

Sometimes the best thing to do the week before a big track and field meet is to rest.

That’s exactly what Baylor has done, as both the men’s and women’s teams will compete in the Power Five Invitational Friday and Saturday at the U-M Indoor Track Building in Ann Arbor, Mich.

And that’s exactly what the Bears did after running in the Texas A&M Quadrangular two weeks ago, too.

Baylor head coach Todd Harbour said the time off heading into this weekend was a huge boost, as the Bears will face some stiff competition.

“It’s huge to have the opportunity to re-load, to get some training in and had great weather this week,” Harbour said. “Last week it was cold, but we needed it just to try to get some of them well and I think it served us well.”

The Bears will have their hands and feet full this weekend as they race against schools from the Big Ten, Southeastern Conference, Pac-12 and the Atlantic Coast Conference. Participating in the meet will be Stanford, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Duke, Louisville, Miami and North Carolina State.

Baylor will be the lone representative from the Big 12.

Despite the quality of competition Baylor will be up against this weekend, Harbour expects his team to kick it into high gear as the Bears enter the midseason point, and this meet is where that mindset sets in.

“This is a midpoint in the season for us, kind of at the halfway point so this is a really good meet. You have some outstanding teams from all the conferences and it should be a good little report card to see where we’re at,” Harbour said. “We have to continue to get better and move up the national list. We’re not where we want to be right now, so we have to make some headway there. Our ladies can move up a little bit higher and hopefully defend their title in a few weeks, but it’s a big, big meet for us.”

The Baylor men enter the meet ranked No. 51 in the newest United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association indoor rankings. This is not where Harbour wants them to be, but part of that has been out of his control, as several key athletes are still nursing injuries.

One of those key players as been sophomore sprinter Maxwell Willis. Willis had an incredible freshman season. He earned All-American honors in the indoor season, while also winning the Big 12 200-meter crown in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. However, during June’s USATF (USA Track & Field) Junior Championships in Sacramento, Calif., he strained his semitendinosus muscle, a muscle in his hamstring, and has been battling to get back on the track ever since.

Willis plans to test that hamstring this weekend.

“I’m excited. I’m just going to go out there, give it my all and see what I can do, see where I’m at,” Willis said.

The women’s team, on the other hand, is entering this weekend’s meet at No. 19. The team is dealing with some injury and depth issues as well, but Harbour said he is expecting a good experience and good results from his runners this weekend.

“The ladies are strong, they have some incredible depth and we’re hoping to run really fast up there,” Harbour said. “Our middle distance should make some big marks, our sprint crew is not going to see the A&M’s and the Texas’s and the LSU’s, so they might have a chance to shine a little bit which I think is good for our young ones. The middle distance has all they want from Stanford, Minnesota and Michigan, so they’re loaded. It will be a good for them.”

In all, Baylor will send out 48 athletes to compete this weekend, 26 women and 22 men.

Willis said he hopes to see the team eliminate some of the distractions they have been battling together and will put together a meet worth talking about for a long time.

“I would like to see everybody give their all, do their best and just eliminate all the stress and distractions that have been flowing around because that’s the biggest problem,” Willis said. “I’m hoping that everybody can eliminate all those distractions before we even get on the plane, so by the time we get there, we’re all focused and locked in and we’re just ready for war.”

The pentathlon and heptathlon events begin at 11:30 a.m. Friday, while running and field events begin at 3:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively. The final three events of the heptathlon begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, while the field and running events begin at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. A full schedule of events and times can be found online here.

Delta Timing will also be updating live results.