Baylor track & field’s early success boosts confidence going forward

Freshman Johnny Brackins jumps 25-6 ¼, making him No. 3 in Baylor history on Jan. 21 at the Larry Wieczorek Invitational in Iowa City, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer

After a strong start to the indoor season, Baylor track and field is confident going forward and is looking to build on its early success the rest of the way.

Head coach Michael Ford said the team is in a good position and that the athletes’ focus will lead to good things as the season progresses.

“I’m real confident in them,” Ford said. “They’ve been locked in from day one. We set the tone early on in the fall on what we expected out of them and getting team goals together, and they’ve been keeping their eyes on the goals.”

Three Baylor athletes took home most outstanding honors after their last outing: freshman jumper Johnny Brackins, sophomore sprinter Ackera Nugent and senior pole vaulter Tuesdi Tidwell. Ford said it’s important for the team to have people who can perform on that level going into conference championships and nationals.

“To do well in the conference and then national championship, you have to have performers like that,” Ford said. “Ackera running her time in the hurdles was important for her to see where she’s going, and training-wise she’s been doing awesome. Tuesdi has been ‘Ms. Consistency’ for us over the last four years and she’s going to do well at nationals [and] Johnny, a freshman who’s bouncing right now, they set the tone and helped their teammates think ‘If they can do it why can’t we do it too?’ and that was big.”

On Wednesday, Brackins and Nugent were announced the Big-12‘s Athletes of the Week. Brackins moved to No. 2 on Baylor’s all-time performer’s list and his winning long jump of 25-6 ¼ earned him the No. 1 mark in the country on the week. Nugent broke the meet, facility and program record in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.9 seconds, which ranks No. 2 nationally.

Brackins said he feels good about where he is, but knows he still has a lot more work to do. He said he never gets complacent and is always striving to be better.

“I’m never satisfied; I’m always looking to keep going,” Brackins said. “Those jumps got me in decent rankings, but still not as high as I want to be. My motivation is that I have much more to accomplish, so I just have to keep working hard.”

Nugent said her performance helps her confidence moving forward because it helps her gauge where she is and lets her know her hard work is coming full circle.

“I now see all the things that I’ve been focusing on during the fall season are coming together,” Nugent said. “I just want to go out there, have fun and do what I do best: compete.”

Nugent said she can see the team doing great things as long as they stay focused on the bigger goals and work on the little things.

“We keep improving on the little things and stay locked in and focused on the bigger picture,” Nugent said. “As long as we keep our mindset where it is right now and support each other, I see us doing great things together as a team.”

Ford said a big thing for the team is getting better each week and staying consistent meet to meet. He said he has high expectations for both the women’s and men’s teams.

“The big thing for us is just improving each week,” Ford said. “You’re not going to PR every track meet; The important thing is being consistent in what you do. Every meet gets bigger, but you still execute the same way. If you’re consistent, eventually the times will drop and jumps will be further. Goal-wise, for the ladies, we talked about being top three at the conference championship. We know that they can do it, but they have to know it as well. For our men’s side, the biggest thing for them is being ahead of the middle of the pack in the conference meet. For nationals, we want to get as many bodies as we can out there.”