Baylor track and field’s women’s 4×100 relay team looks to replicate All-American splits

Sophomore sprinter Tiriah Kelley is one of four All-American 4x100-meter relay runners from the 2023 season. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Tyler White | Sports Writer

Baylor track and field’s women’s 4×100 relay team had taken first place in two meets prior to an eighth place finish at LSU’s Battle on the Bayou at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium on Saturday. With such a fast relay, members of the team said there’s a lot of practice and chemistry that goes into executing winning runs.

Sophomore sprinter Tiriah Kelley and junior sprinter Michaela Francois said the most important thing about the relay is working as a team.

“The relay, you’re not running just for you, but what you’re doing also depends on your teammates as well,” Kelley said. “So it’s more you have to think of not just being for yourself, but you’re running for all four of you as well.”

Kelley said one vital aspect of the relay is the execution of the handoffs, because they bring the entire race together.

“A lot of times, the more chemistry that you have or connections you have with someone, the easier or smoother handoffs will be and become over time, so practicing before is always making sure handoffs are ready or switching up handoffs to see if — just in case — someone moves or whatever the case may be,” Kelley said.

As for the team, Francois said they have been practicing and developing a lot of chemistry with each other. She said they have been able to work well together, which has made the handoffs smooth.

“We all practice together, and we all just laugh and have fun at practice,” Francois said. “We don’t really think about the race like that. But when it comes to the handoffs and stuff, it’s always smooth because we all just want it for each other.”

This is the relay team’s first outdoor season together, and Kelley said they have been able to adjust well. She said that even though it’s new for all of them together, they have been able to find strong bonds and continue to improve their performances.

“I’m impressed with this honestly, because this is our first [time having] this order and this relay,” Kelley said. “This is new, and for us, we’ve still been doing good and getting the time faster.”

The Bears are coming off a 44.23-second race on Saturday, but they won the Clyde Hart Invitational in Waco with a time of 43.93 seconds. The women’s group — which ran 3/4 of the All-American group from 2023 — put up a 44.65-second relay to open the year with a win at the shortened TCU Alumni Invite on March 16.

That lineup consists of junior sprinter Imaobong Uko, senior sprinter Bria Bullard, Kelley and Francois. Graduate student sprinter Mariah Ayers was the fourth leg of the relay team that broke the school record in three straight events to close out the 2023 spring season.

They placed eighth with a program-best 43.12-second time at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 10, 2023, at Texas’ Mike A. Myers Stadium.

But as the current group looks forward to the rest of the season, Francois said they are working to continue to drop their time more and more. They were able to improve their time with wins in the TCU Alumni Invitational and Clyde Hart Classic.

“I think we’re working toward [placing] No. 1,” Francois said. “I think it’s always a goal for everybody to be No. 1, but wherever we end up is where we end up, but it’d be nice to be No. 1.”

Kelley added that there’s something beautiful about watching the relay and seeing how everyone’s individual talents come together to create a strong, unified effort. Similarly, Francois said the mix of talents and backgrounds of track allows the team to grow in its strengths and work together for faster times.

“We have some that run the 400 [meter], and we have someone that just runs the [200 meter] and the two people that run the [100 meter],” Francois said. “You have different people that have different backgrounds in the sport, and just to be able to put a relay that has that many different events, it just makes it more fun.”

The Bears will look to improve their time with the upcoming Tom Jones Invitational, which is set for April 12-13 at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.