All three of Baylor’s track and field entries on the final day of the NCAA Indoor Championships produced All-America honors Saturday at Gilliam Indoor Stadium.
Senior Annie Rhodes was second in the pole vault, freshman Maxwell Willis was fifth in the 200 meters and the women’s 4x400-meter relay of Taylor Bennett, Kiana Hawn, Kiana Horton and Leticia De Souza closed out the night by taking fifth in that event.
The 14 combined points for the women tied them for 14th in the team race. Willis’ four points allowed the BU men to score in the meet for the 37th-straight year - the nation’s longest streak.
Rhodes got the momentum rolling early for the Bears as she notched a school record in the pole vault 14-7.25 [14.45m] to earn the second place finish. However, Rhodes route to the podium was no without drama. After clearing the opening three bars with just one miss, Rhodes was just one of six vaulters left in the competition as the bar was raised to 14-5.25 [4.40m]. It took the Waco, Texas, product three attempts to clear that height, which tied her own school record in the event. With four athletes remaining as the height was again upped, Rhodes used another third attempt to clear 14-7.25 [4.45m]. Rhodes and Alabama’s Lakan Taylor were the only vaulters left to attempt the next height at 14-9 [4.50m]. Neither of the athletes were able to get over that bar, which left Rhodes’ placing to be decided by misses and since she had five compared to Taylor’s one.
Moments after Rhodes clinched the runner-up placing, the attention shifted to the track as Willis ran in the finals of the 200 meters. The freshman blazed to a personal-best time of 20.69 to finish fifth. Willis’ mark is tied for the sixth-fastest in school history as he once again got off to a great start and held on for his first All-America honor, while placing third in his section.
To close out the night, the 4x400-meter relay produced a school record time of 3:30.60 to take fifth. Running in the first of three section, Bennett, Hawn, Horton and De Souza established the time to beat, while bettering their own school record of 3:32.09 from earlier this year at the Rod McCravy Memorial. Bennett led off the race with a 52.37 carry to give BU the lead after one leg. Hawn had a 53.35 split, while Horton followed with 52.80 to leave the Bears .62 seconds behind South Carolina at the final exchange. De Souza produced an anchor of 52.08 to close out the section win. However all four teams in the final section of the event posted a better time than the Bears to bump them to fifth.
• Willis is Baylor’s 10th All-American (six different athletes) in the 200-meter event at the NCAA Indoor Championships and the first since Trayvon Bromell won the event in 2015.
• Rhodes earns the second indoor All-America honor of her career, after placing eighth in 2015. She is the only BU female athlete to ever win All-American honors in the event.
• Baylor earned All-America accolades in the 4x400-meter relay for the first time since 2005. It was the program’s seventh-year to earn All-America in the event.
• The Baylor women’s 14th-place finish is their sixth-highest all-time and its 12 points scored are its eighth-most.