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SECOND CITY: Holland Takes Gold, BU Wins 9 Silvers at Big 12 Meet

May 6, 2013

By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider

Still giddy and somewhat stunned after winning the 400-meter hurdles at the Big 12 Championships with a school-record time of 56.81 seconds, Christina Holland whispered, "Did that just happen?"

Yes, Christina, that just happened.

On a day filled with plenty of seconds by Baylor - six for the day and nine runner-up finishes for the meet - Holland claimed the school's only Big 12 title by holding off her nemesis, Texas junior Danielle Dowie, by just eight hundredths of a second.

"Before this, I was almost in tears," said Holland, who was beaten out by Dowie for a spot in the NCAA Championship finals last year by just 15 hundredths of a second. "I wasn't doubting myself, but I was thinking, 'What if she beats me again?' This is the same girl that knocked me out of nationals last year. I was just like, 'I can't lose again. I just can't.'''

Coming out of the final curve, Holland noticed that "we were still in the same ballpark." That's when she kicked it into another gear and pulled ahead right before the ninth and final hurdle.

"Normally, she's kind of ahead of me, and I thought, 'Man, I'm just going for it," Holland said. "So I went for it, and I could hear everybody getting louder. Normally, I don't really pay attention to that, but was like, 'OK! OK!' . . . I still don't believe it, honestly."

Holland's performance highlighted a day that saw Baylor come close so many times, only to fall just short. But the women's team finished third in the team race with 93 points - their highest finish and points since getting second place with 106.5 points in 1999.

"We knew coming in that we were short on sticks to fight with," said Baylor head coach Todd Harbour, "but I thought we fought really hard all weekend. We ended up having nine seconds, and then Christina grabbed her Big 12 title. And the ladies finished third as a team, which exceeded our expectations. It was just as solid a performance as we've had from all areas, when you get contributions from the sprints, the hurdles, the jumps, the throws, middle distance. It was just a total team effort by the ladies."

The men finished seventh with 61 points, but got personal bests and a pair of silver medals from junior sprinter Blake Heriot.

Breaking his previous career-best by nearly a full second, Heriot placed second behind Kansas senior Kyle Clemons with a time of 45.46 that ranks as the fourth-fastest time in the NCAA this season and 10th-fastest in the world. Clemons' winning time of 45.10 is ranked No. 2 in the world.

"I was trying to break 46," said Heriot, whose previous best of 46.28 came in finishing fourth at last year's Big 12 meet. "I was hoping 45.90 was going to win it. It happened to be faster, but it got me a (personal record) by a lot). I shocked myself."

Getting a break of less than an hour and a half, Heriot came back to finish second in the 200 meters with another personal-best time of 20.52. TCU senior Charles Silmon won in a time of 20.33 that ranks No. 1 nationally, while Heriot's time is tied for the fifth-fastest.

"I'm not going to say I didn't expect it," Heriot said. "When you come to the Big 12 Championships, you don't want to think about your times; you want to think about points and scoring for the team. But getting the PRs . . . we've been training hard all year, and it's good to see it show, actually, in the races."

Also running a leg on the men's 4x100-meter relay team that finished fourth in 40.47 seconds, Heriot was the meet's fourth-highest point scorer with 17 ¼ points.

The men also got a surprising runner-up finish from senior half-miler Gavyn Nero.

Coming into the meet with the league's seventh-fastest time and then posting the slowest qualifying time of the eight finalists, Nero stayed near the front of the pack the whole race and then kicked past the field at around the 200-meter mark. But less than 50 meters from the finish line, Nero glanced over his shoulder just in time to see Big 12 indoor champion Nick Rivera pass him and win the race in 1:50.03, followed closely by Nero in 1:50.27.

"I don't know where that (kick) came from," said Nero, who beat his previous season best (1:51.59) by 1 ½ seconds. "I think I got too excited. But right now, thinking back on it, that was the best decision I ever made in the race. If I would've come down the home stretch with those guys, I might've just beaten myself mentally, because I've done that most of the year. But I believed in myself this race, because this is our track."

Nero admitted that he made a mistake in glancing back, but "coming into this week, if you had talked to coach, just to get into the final would have been a problem for me. . . . And then to come here and place second in the final at the Big 12 Championships . . . I wasn't even expected to be here, but I proved myself wrong once again."

The 800 meters proved to be one of Baylor's best events, with freshman Olicia Williams (2:05.23) and sophomore Mariah Kelly (2:09.61) finishing second and fifth, respectively on the women's side. Williams sprinted past Kendra Chambers of Texas and Ejiroghene Okoro of Iowa State on the final 100 meters and finished second in a personal-best time of 2:05.23 that ranks as the second-fastest in school history and 15th in the NCAA this season.

Giving Williams a big bear hug at the end of the race, Harbour told her, "You had it in you. The training was all there, you've just got to believe."

"So I did," said Williams, who improved her time by two seconds. "I just knew all my practice and training was there, so I was like, 'I've got this in me. I've got to do what I can do.' . . . I'm just shocked I did so well."

Harbour said Williams, a first-semester freshman, is a "major talent."

"It's just been a process of getting her in shape," Harbour said. "She's going to do nothing but get better. She's going to be even more special next year. She did a great job of just digging in. That girl that she beat from Texas is a 2:03 runner, so that's pretty good."

Kelly got a silver medal of her own earlier in the day, finishing second in the 1,500 meters with a time of 4:24.09. Sarah Sutherland of Texas won the race in 4:22.87.

"By the time I was really starting to close, the race was almost over," Kelly said. "It was disappointing, but God's plan. . . . I'm not one of those people who like to be a one-vent kind of person. I want to be someone who's just a good athlete and who could run any event. It's all about guts and glory, I feel for track; and I'm all about guts and glory."

Redshirt freshman Ashley Fields was actually a four-event runner. The redshirt freshman from Amherst, N.Y., placed third in the 200 meters (23.33) and fourth in the 100 (11.50) with a personal-best time also ran legs on the 4x100 and 4x400 relays that finished seventh and third, respectively.

"All my family from New York got to come down, so that was really exciting," Fields said, "because last year I didn't get to run. Being at home, around my family and friends, it was really a nice first experience. . . . I think regionals will be my time."

Senior Skylar White got her second runner-up finish of the meet and the team's ninth overall, finishing second in the discus with a toss of 176-10. Kansas junior Jessica Maroszek took first with a mark of 186-5.

"I don't know why, but I was kind of holding back, just trying to be safe," said White, who was also second in the shot put. "There were a couple of them that could have been a lot better, like they had a nice flight and everything, but I was just holding back a little."

Baylor also got significant field event points with third-place finishes from freshmen Felix Obi (52-2 ½) and Brianna Richardson (41-9 ¼) in the triple jump.

"I actually started doing what my coach has been telling me to do," said Obi, who scratched three times and failed to place in the long jump the day before. "It's just little things. I have a lot of room for improvement, so I know I can be there for regionals."

The men also picked up points in the javelin, with Blake Mayberry moving up on his final throw to finish fourth in 206-9; and Richard Hansen taking seventh with a personal-best mark of 200-5.

In the women's 400, sophomore Raena Rhone was fourth in 53.58 and junior Idia Omogiate was seventh in 54.54. The women also got points with sixth-place finishes from Holland in the 100-meter hurdles (13.64) and Rachel Johnson in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:38.42).

For the men, freshman Bryce Grace was fifth in the 110 hurdles (14.10) and fellow freshman Alex Reece was eighth in the 100 meters (10.62) to earn all-conference honors.

Baylor's only real disappointment of the meet came in the closing event, when the men's mile relay finished fourth with a time of 3:09.32. The Bears came in ranked first in the conference and fourth nationally with a 4x400-meter time of 3:03.90, but had Justin Allen and freshman Isaiah Duke as substitute legs for Heriot and freshman Richard Gary.

"We held those two guys out, but those other four guys had run really well this year, so they were capable of putting a good time down," Harbour said. "We just didn't get the job done. There's no excuse for it. We were disappointed; I know coach (Clyde) Hart was. But we've got to focus on what we did all the way up to that point. And that's what I'm trying to do."

After taking the next two weekends off, Baylor will compete in the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds on May 23-25 in Austin, Texas.

Here is a link to the complete results from the 2013 Big 12 Championships.

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