By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
With an undesirable result, the Baylor track and field team concluded the 2022 season in 37th place with six points on Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., as part of the NCAA Championships.
Sophomore sprinter Kavia Francis notched her first-ever individual All-American honor Saturday after an eighth place finish in the 400-meter. She clocked a 52.16-second time — something head coach Michael Ford was proud of.
“I thought Kavia did an awesome job — first time making the [National Championships] in an open race and getting eighth place,” Ford said. “Actually, she was my first 400-meter All-American outdoor on the ladies’ side, so that was definitely a special moment.”
Francis is the first top-eight finisher for the Bears in the 400-meter since Barbara Petrahn placed fifth in 2001.
Not long after, senior middle-distance runner Aaliyah Miller secured her fifth and final honor, thanks to her crossing seventh in the 800-meter. Miller’s first lap was a scorching 57.62, and she had built a lead with roughly 100 meters left.
Unfortunately, the 2021 NCAA indoor champion in the 800-meter didn’t have enough push left, as she fell to seventh on the final stretch to the tune of a 2:03.05 time.
“Aaliyah went for it, kind of how she did indoors when she won,” Ford said. “I was happy that she held on to get a couple points for us, but I think she went out a little bit quicker than she needed to. You’re always going to pay for it early or late, and she paid for it late. [The other runners] had a little bit more left in the tank because they didn’t go out as fast.”
Another shocker developed when the 4×400-meter relay team — consisting of Francis, junior sprinter Mariah Ayers, sophomore hurdler Gontse Morake and freshman sprinter Imaobong Uko — finished in eighth place.
The quartet, who only returned two runners from last year’s team, logged a 3:28.89-mark, which ranks as the third fastest in school history. That same foursome won a Big 12 championship and is responsible for each of the top three times.
“We’ve never run under 3:30 multiple times in a season, so I was pleased with that,” Ford said. “For them to make the finals without [Aaliyah Miller and Arria Minor] … I thought the ladies stepped up and did what they wanted to do. That was one of their goals, was to be All-American outdoors.”
Ford added that the mile-relay group did not perform at their peak, but he’s still proud of them because he “thought they competed well.”
“Coming into the meet, I thought we could go anywhere from eighth to maybe fifth,” Ford said. “I just think we were a little bit off. I would say everyone was probably about half a second off how they normally run. But I thought they competed well.”
Despite the bitter end to a promising collegiate season, Ford said he is content in knowing he’ll “still be happy” about the year’s performance.
- Baylor is sending 10 athletes to the USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships, set to begin June 23 back at Hayward Field in Eugene.
- Uko, along with freshman tandem hurdler Nathaniel Ezekiel and freshman thrower Chinecherem Prosper Nnamdi “Zaza,” will take part in the Nigerian championships.
- Francis will compete in the World Championships qualifier in Jamaica.
- On Wednesday, Zaza recorded his first All-America honors in the javelin throw after a mark of 257-11, giving him a fifth-place finish.
- Senior long jumper Caira Pettway attained All-America honors Thursday evening with a massive 21-0 ½ long jump mark. She’s only the fifth Bear to cross the 21-foot mark.
- The men’s team wrapped up their season Friday, tying for 18th and adding five All-America accolades.
- Of the men’s six All-Americans, four of them are freshmen.