Track & field takes off for Iowa City in first meet

All-American junior Jayson Baldridge leaps over a hurdle at a Big 12 meet in 2018. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer

Baylor track and field begins their indoor season in Iowa City, Iowa on Friday and Saturday at the Larry Wieczorek Invitational. The Hawkeye-hosted meet will feature seven returning All-Americans for the Bears.

Baylor head coach Todd Harbour said before the team left that this is a great opportunity for the team to jump into this new campaign.

“It’s a great meet that we’re going to and we don’t shy away from competitions in any of the meets we go to for indoor,” Harbour said. “We’re excited, and we’ve got a good group. We’ve got some freshmen that have never been on the boards before, so that’s always interesting to see the first time.”

The men’s team enters the season ranked No. 18, with the women’s squad close behind at No. 31. Returning junior All-American Jayson Baldridge said the team is hungry after a disappointing end last year.

“We had a good year last year,” Baldridge said. “It kind of came to an end based off injuries and we kind of had some shortcomings, but we’re really settled. We have a good young group this year, and we’ve been working pretty hard.”

The Baylor men’s team returns four more All-Americans, with sophomore pole vaulter KC Lightfoot leading the way after his appearance at the 2019 World Championships. Junior sprinter Howard Fields III, sophomore sprinter Matthew Moorer and senior sprinter Maxwell Willis also return for the Bears.

Baylor looks to continue their success in the 4×400 meter relay with its two returning women’s All-Americans, juniors Aaliyah Miller and Sydney Washington. Harbour said that the team is still working toward a return to the big stage.

“I think our ladies are, we’re still rebuilding,” Harbour said. “We’re not back to where we were two years ago when we won the Big 12 title, but we’re not far away. So that’s what our message is to them. We’ve got to keep building.”

The squads have more to prepare for this spring than just the NCAA season, with the 2020 Olympic Trials approching. Harbour said the trials add more this particular season.

“We’ve got several [athletes] that have a shot,” Harbour said. “We should have a good contingent at the trials this year. Whether how many of them have a chance to make that team has yet to be seen, but it changes how you look at the season.”

The 2020 Olympic Team Trials for track and field will begin on June 19 in Eugene, Ore., pushing a long season even further. Baldridge said the trials are a motivator and a reminder for what this season means.

“It kind of makes you realize that this is going to be a pretty long year,” Baldridge said. “God blesses us with that chance, and so it does put things in perspective that we need to run at a high level all year.”

The Bears start their season at 10 a.m. Friday at Francis X. Cretzmeyer Track in Iowa City, Iowa.