Baylor track and field newcomer Rachel Hickey shines in delayed debut

Graduate student mid-distance runner Rachel Hickey clocked a 2:05.62 in the 800 meters — the 12th-best race so far in Division I — in the Battle on the Bayou on March 30. Her time, which was just shy of her 2:05.06 personal best, earned her a fifth-place finish, and her run now ranks sixth all-time in program history. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Cal Logan | Reporter

A new member to the Baylor track and field team recently made her mark, as graduate student mid-distance runner Rachel Hickey placed third in the 1,500-meter dash in the Clyde Hart Classic on March 23 in Waco.

Hickey also won the 800-meter event in what was her first meet as a Baylor Bear.

“I was really excited to put on a Baylor uniform for the first time,” Hickey said. “I was nervous because I haven’t raced in a long time, but I was really excited to race along with people I’ve trained with every day.”

Hickey, a transfer from Illinois State, had a delayed start to her introductory meet.

“It’s kind of been a rollercoaster of a month, because we had an early meet in March that got canceled, and then I didn’t go to the TCU match,” Hickey said. “So it’s been a long waiting game, and I hadn’t raced for 10 months.”

Hickey said her ability to earn the two medals in the home meet was the reward for “an adjustment period” of acclimating to Texas and Baylor.

“I’m glad I had the fall semester to figure everything out, settle into my grad program and kind of figure out the coaching style, because it was so different from my old school,” Hickey said.

Hickey added that she has embraced a very young team but that she enjoys the energy the group provides.

“It’s a fun group,” Hickey said. “It’s a young group compared to me. I’m almost 24, so the energy is high all the time. I think for someone like myself and Ellie [Hodge], who’s also a sixth year on the distance team, we just have a lot of experience.”

Hickey said her friendship with Hodge has helped her settle into a new place. She said the two of them have spearheaded leading the young squad.

“We’ve been in the sport for a really long time and raced a lot, so I think [leadership is] one thing we bring to the group that’s really beneficial, because we’ve pretty much been everywhere and seen everything,” Hickey said.

Hickey competed for four years with the Redbirds and is now completing her last year of eligibility with the Bears. She said she hopes to work within the sport in some capacity upon graduation.

“I definitely picked Baylor because I wanted a place to finish up my eligibility and set up for a potential career on the track after college, but also get a really good degree at a high-end university,” Hickey said.

Hickey added that Baylor’s academic standard was a large reason for her transfer.

“Academics are just as important for me,” Hickey said. “I’m always working, and I am a [graduate assistant] for my program, so I’ll be doing work on trips in the spring next year. I’ll do some internship hours.”

Baylor cross country and distance head coach David Barnett was one of the pivotal pieces in getting Hickey to Baylor.

“We knew she came from a smaller conference, but she was already at the top of her conference,” Barnett said. “No matter what conference you’re in, you want people that are used to winning and being at the top.”

Barnett said Hickey’s ability to adapt to a new team speaks to her resilience.

“She’s been very coachable,” Barnett said. “It’s always strange when you go from one way of doing things to another way of things, so for us, we’ve been trying to find the balance between doing things that she’s comfortable with and things that might be a little new to her. She’s done a good job managing that and done a great job communicating.”

Barnett said it helped that Hickey was such an experienced runner, as that’s something the young team needed.

“You can’t replace experience, and she has a lot of running experience, but she also has a lot of life experience,” Barnett said. “I’m sure she’s had some ups and downs in her career athletically that she can share with the younger women on the team.

“Every time you have success, a lot of people only see that, so for her to be able to share her journey from point A to point B is definitely a beneficial thing.”

Barnett said Hickey has come a long way and has handled all of her adversity to a tee.

“Being comfortable with being uncomfortable and making the most of opportunities, that’s the name of the game in life as well as running,” Barnett said. “She’s done a really good job of that.”