Baylor track and field shines at Michael Johnson Invitational despite rainy weather

The Michael Johnson Invitational was paused before the 800-meter heat at approximately 4:17 p.m., and then head coach Michael Ford canceled the rest of the meet at 4:30 p.m. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Tyler White | Sports Writer

Baylor track and field put up numerous wins across a shortened Michael Johnson Invitational, thanks to rough weather in Central Texas. The meet was paused at 4:17 p.m. and then canceled around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Clyde Hart Track and Field Stadium in Waco.

But the Bears put together six total event wins and a collegiate title before the bad weather rolled in.

“We thought [the rain] would come in around 4:30 or 5 o’clock,” head coach Michael Ford said. “I wasn’t sure about the lightning. I don’t play around with the lightning. I don’t like delays honestly, with the kids warming up, then cooling down, then warming back up. I worry about that.

“We just said we were going to go ahead and call it. … It’s late in the season. We don’t need any injuries. At least on our end, we don’t need any injuries. That’s why I said, ‘You know what? We’ll go ahead and cancel the rest of the meet.’”

The Bears tallied two event wins in the women’s pole vault and long jump following the first day of the event on Friday.

Senior sprinter Alexis Brown continued to showcase her long jump dominance with yet another win in the event. She set a new personal, facility and program best by a centimeter with a jump of 21-11 ½.

Ford said Brown has a strong mindset to push forward, even after figuring out her foot injury and getting treatment. He said she is always studying film on long jump approaches to further her technique.

“She’s a student of her sport and just wants to be good,” Ford said. “I think those two years where she wasn’t competing really hard, or at all, has made her more hungry. For her, it’s, ‘What can I do to go 22?’ Because [a jump of] 22 [feet] is that magical number for the ladies.”

Freshman pole vaulter Molly Haywood won her second straight pole vaulting event with a new personal best of 14-7 ½. She said it meant a lot to see her hard work pay off as she prepares for the upcoming Big 12 Championship meet, which will also be in Waco.

“I think just using this [meet] as kind of like a practice run just to see how I want to do Big 12, because that’s obviously one of the more important meets,” Haywood said. “So I think that’s really good, and I feel really confident in what I did, and I’m ready to go.”

The Bears tacked on another four wins in the track events before the bad weather rolled in on Saturday. Alongside this, senior sprinter Demar Francis claimed the collegiate win in the men’s 400-meter dash with a time of 46.59, finishing second behind Tokyo Olympian Nic Baker.

The women’s 4×100-meter relay opened the day with a win behind a 44.29 run from sophomore sprinter Tiriah Kelley, junior sprinter Imaobong Uko, Brown and senior sprinter Kayla Hunt. The men’s 4×100-meter relay squad finished in second with a time of 40.31, finishing only .02 seconds behind TCU’s unit.

The Bears took the top two spots on the podium in the women’s 100-meter dash. Junior sprinter Michaela Francois finished with an 11.42-second time, and Hunt finished just behind with an 11.43-second time.

The Bears also added two event wins on the women’s side of the meet. Graduate student jumper Koi Johnson took the triple jump competition with a mark of 42-2 and junior distance runner Hayden Gold won the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 10:59.91.

Though they were unable to finish the meet, Ford said he was pleased with how the team performed.

“I thought overall, our kids competed really well, considering — because it could be like this at Big 12s. It could be like this especially at nationals, in Oregon. It could be this kind of weather,” Ford said. “But I thought overall, our kids did well.”

Baylor will return to the Clyde Hart Track and Field Stadium for the 2024 Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships on May 9-11. But the Bears will compete in one final meet in Arizona, the Desert Heat Classic on April 27, first.