AUSTIN – Load up the plane, as Baylor has a rather large pack of Bears heading to Oregon.
Specifically, Eugene, Oregon – site of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Baylor added qualifiers in 10 more events on Saturday at the NCAA West Prelims at Mike A. Myers Stadium, giving the program 17 total entries to the NCAA meet.
Baylor field event seniors Felix Obi and Cion Hicks reached the national stage for a third straight year. Obi, who has been fighting through a cartilage injury in his knee this season and didn’t compete at the Big 12 meet, delivered when he had to on Saturday. Obi’s injury had forced him to have five different injections.
After a short jump (by his standards) of 50-2¾ on his first try and a foul on his second attempt, Obi stood up to the pressure. On his third and final jump, he sailed 53-0, the eighth-best jump of the day and good enough to be one of the meet’s 12 qualifiers for nationals.
“It’s a meaningful one for me, because of all this adversity of this whole year, not even jumping for eight weeks,” Obi said. “For me to come out here and execute like I did, it feels like an out-of-body experience.”
Similarly, Hicks also delivered on her final attempt in the women’s shot put. On her third throw, she went 52-6. That made her the 11th of 12 qualifiers for Eugene in the event.
Both of Baylor’s sprint relay teams punched their tickets as well. In the men’s race, the quartet of Malik Wilson, Wil London, Maxwell Willis and Ian Braxton ran 39.62. That was fourth in a fast heat, won by Texas A&M’s 38.78, and when all the times were posted the Bears grabbed the 12th and final qualifying spot of the 24 teams in action.
In the women’s 4x100, Baylor advanced with the 10th-best time of 44.84. Raegan Padgett, Taylor Bennett, Juanita Mainoo and Jhane King comprised BU’s foursome, who will be joined by a slew of familiar Big 12 faces in Eugene. Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas also qualified for nationals in that race.
Padgett filled in for Kiana Horton in that race, who was out with an injury.
Though USC blew away the field in the women’s 4x400, Baylor turned in a strong third-place effort. The Bears’ time of 3:30.62 was the fifth-best showing in school history. Victoria Powell ran the leadoff leg for BU, followed by Kiana Hawn, Bennett and Leticia de Souza.
The Baylor men’s 4x400 team took care of business as well. Baylor’s squad of Chris Platt, Wil London, Caleb Dickson and George Caddick logged a time of 3:03.33, tops in their heat. It marks the 38th consecutive year that Baylor has qualified for nationals in the 4x400 relay.
The Bears sent a pair of athletes on to nationals in the women’s triple jump. Senior Rachel Toliver, who opened with a foul, later soared to 44-2, the third-best showing of the day. She’ll be joined by her senior teammate Brianna Richardson, whose top jump of 43-7 was good enough for seventh.
Baylor freshman Maxwell Willis added a spot in the 200-meter field at Eugene to the place he had already clinched in the 100. Willis won his heat at 20.22 seconds, which also was tied for the second-best time of the day.
In the women’s 200, Taylor Bennett matched Willis as a national qualifier in two different individual races. The junior sprinter clocked in at 22.83 seconds, second in her heat and seventh overall.
Baylor did have some tough misses, too. Senior Maggie Montoya lost a shoe just 300 meters into the 5,000, and finished 33rd with a time of 17:21.12, well behind her normal pace.
Other earlier qualifiers for Baylor included London and Caddick in the men’s 400, Willis in the men’s 100, Bennett in the women’s 100, Kiana Hawn in the 400 hurdles, Annie Rhodes in the pole vault and Jenna Pfeiffer in the heptathlon.
The NCAA Outdoor Championships will be June 7-10 in Eugene.