LAWERENCE, Kan. – Happy birthday to you, Annie Rhodes.
The Baylor senior surpassed a long-held goal of clearing 15 feet in the pole vault in claiming the conference title at the Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships Saturday at Rock Chalk Park. And she raised that bar on her 22nd birthday, no less.
On her second try at 15-1½, Rhodes flung herself high into the air. As she curled over the bar, she brushed against it slightly, but it remained in place. Rhodes descended to the mat as not only the Big 12 champion in the event, but the new national leader in the event as well.
And she knew it, as she immediately bounced off the mat, and danced around in giddy celebration.
“I was ecstatic when I hit 14-9, because I missed that mark last year. That was the qualifying mark for the Olympic trials, and I missed it,” Rhodes said. “So that’s been a goal of mine for a while. But to go on and clear 15-1, I think everybody heard me scream. I was just on fire after I cleared that bar.”
Rhodes noted that the last time she competed on her birthday, she was in high school competing at the UIL state track and field meet. That day, she also set a new personal best and won a title as well. “I think it’s just the Lord’s blessing,” she said.
Baylor freshman Maxwell Willis blazed through his preliminary races at Rock Chalk Park. Willis zipped to the best time of anyone in the field in the 100-meter dash, running 10.03.
A little over two hours later, he proved no less impressive in the 200, ripping off the top prelim time at 20.07.
In the men’s 400, Baylor senior George Caddick and sophomore Wil London took care of their business to move on through the prelims. Caddick posted the best time of the day at 46.10 while London won his heat and posted the second-best time behind Caddick at 46.34.
Two-sport star Chris Platt didn’t miss by much in joining those two in the final, as he recorded the 10th best time of the prelims at 47.49. The top eight runners move on.
BU senior Cion Hicks suffered her first loss of the season in the shot put, but still put forth her best effort. Hicks extended her own school record to 56-10¼ and seized the silver medal behind Oklahoma junior Jessica Woodard, who went 60-3.
Baylor senior Jenna Pfeiffer’s graduation day was a special one. She didn’t get to walk with her graduating class, but that was OK with her, as she set a school record in the heptathlon, racking up 5,584 points. Pfeiffer finished second overall, behind only Texas Tech’s Kaylee Hinton (5,869).
Pfeiffer had the best javelin toss (154-8) and the top triple jump (38-4¼) of any of the heptathletes, and was second in the high jump (5-7) and the 800-meter run (2:17.47).
Baylor also gathered a heaping helping of points in the decathlon. Senior Chase Hood of Bosqueville produced a career-best 7,083 points in capturing the silver medal. Meanwhile, his BU teammates Luke Littlefield (fifth) and Hunter Powell (sixth) also earned all-conference efforts.
Hood produced the second-best javelin throw in the field, hurling 189-9, and was tied for second in the pole vault (15-5½) and high jump (6-4).
Several Baylor athletes qualified through the prelims of their races to motor on to Sunday’s finals. Rhys Phillips tallied the second-best time in the 110 hurdles at 14.0 to advance. In the women’s 400, Brazil’s Leticia de Souza, who transferred to Baylor prior to this season, powered to time of 53.68 to win her 400-meter heat, while her teammate Victoria Powell (53.88) will join her in the final.
Other women’s qualifiers for Baylor included Kiana Horton in the 100 (11.46) and 200 (23.06), Taylor Bennett (23.04) and Juanita Mainoo (23.35) in the 200 and Kiana Hawn (58.73) in the 400 hurdles.
The meet will conclude Sunday.