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Pack of current, former Baylor track athletes chasing USA titles

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You only thought the Baylor track and field season was over.

OK, technically it is. But plenty of current and former Bears will be in action at a familiar site this week as they take part in the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

It’s a chance to win a national title on the country’s biggest track stage. Among the group chasing titles are a trio of former Baylor stars who made last year’s U.S. Olympic team — sprinter Trayvon Bromell, pole vaulter KC Lightfoot and quarter-miler Wil London.

Count Lightfoot among the favorites in the pole vault, for sure. He finished fourth at the Beijing Summer Games, clearing 19 feet, just inches off the medal stand. He owns personal bests of 19-8 indoors and 19-2.25 outdoors. At Baylor he raised the bar, quite literally, on the school record on his way to all manner of accolades and achievements, including the 2021 NCAA indoor title. Then he turned pro prior to the completion of his sophomore outdoor season last year.

Bromell is always a threat to add more gold to his jewelry collection. The 2014 NCAA champion in the 100 at Baylor has a season-best time of 9.92, which ranks fifth in the world in 2022. He clocked a 9.76 at a meet in Kenya last year, the seventh-fastest time in history on record, and won the Olympic Trials, but finished a millisecond out of the Olympic final.

The competition will be ridiculously tough in the 400 at the USA Championships, as six of the top 10 times in the world this year are owned by Americans. But London has had success at this meet before. He finished third at the 2017 USA meet at the tender age of 19, clocking a personal-best time of 44.47. His best so far in 2022 came at Baylor’s Michael Johnson Invitational, where he went 45.41.

London made the U.S. Olympic team last year as the first ever native Wacoan to do so, as a member of the mixed (co-ed) 4x400 relay pool. But he never was pushed into duty in Beijing.

Others with Baylor ties who will be looking to impress at the USA Championships include Caira Pettaway in the women’s 100, Mariah Ayers in the women’s 200, Aaliyah Miller in the women’s 800, Alexis Duncan in the women’s 100 hurdles, Eli Morris in the men’s 110 hurdles and Jayson Baldridge in the men’s 400 hurdles.

Moreover, a group of seven current Bears will compete in the Under-20 division at the USA Championships in Eugene, aka Tracktown USA. They include Laurenz Colbert (men’s 100, 200), Michaela Francois (women’s 100, 200), Summer Sergeant (women’s 100, 200), Hayden Gold (women’s 3,000, 5,000 and 3,000 steeplechase), Taylor Whitfield (women’s 5,000), Jasmine Gryne (women’s 400 hurdles) and Cooper Mack (men’s shot put).

“I am super excited to be at the USA Championships coming off of a long season,” Baylor head coach Michael Ford said. “It’s an honor to qualify for both the Under-20 and senior championships. ... I’m looking forward to all our kids competing for a shot to make a team and get some experience to be on the international team. It’s definitely our biggest group to the USA championships and we also have some Baylor exes competing, like Trayvon Bromell, Wil London and KC Lightfoot. I’m eager to watch them compete this week.”

The USA Outdoor Championships start Thursday and run through Sunday. The meet acts as a qualifier for the World Championships, which will be July 15-24 also in Eugene.

Additionally, several other Baylor athletes will compete for their home countries at their national meets.

“We also have our Nigerian threesome of Zaza (Propser Nnamdi), Imaobong (Uko) and Nathaniel Ezekiel competing in their championships this upcoming weekend, plus Kavia (Francis) running in the Jamaican trials,” Ford said. “We have a busy, busy week. We’d think the season is over, but with one more meet, hopefully we’ll have some student-athletes representing their country (at the world championships) in a couple weeks.”

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