TRACK SHORTS — April

In her first 100 since winning last year’s USATF title, recovering-from-surgery Aleia Hobbs looked good in Baton Rouge with her windy 10.83. (BRYAN WAYNE)

A SEMINAL FIGURE in U.S. 400 running, Clyde Hart will retire from college coaching at the end of this season. For 56 years he has served the Baylor program, mentoring 34 national champions and 566 All-America performances. He says, “My wife would say, ‘OK, when are you going to retire?’ And I would say that I’ve got to see so-and-so through. And then she finally said, ‘That will never end, because there’s always going to be another one coming up.’ I kind of had to draw a line in the sand, and Will London being the local kid and I recruited him, I wanted to see him through, for sure. I’m 85, I definitely need to spend more time with my wife and just do some things. You just have to move on at some point. And I thought with Wil finishing up, that’s the point.”

Halfmiler Ajee’ Wilson had a nice start to her outdoor season, winning the Larry Ellis Invitational’s 1500 in an outdoor world-leading 4:06.98, the second best time of her career. Ce’Aira Brown followed her across the line in a PR 4:07.68.

South Carolina hurdler Isaiah Moore surprised with his performances at the Gamecock Invitational. First, he blistered his heat in a PR 13.39. Then, in the final with a barely-over-the-limit wind blowing at his back, he covered the distance in 13.25. Says coach Curtis Frye, “Isaiah is coming along quite well. That wind was just on the edge, and we’ll take it. That was his second run of the day, and it shows us a lot about him, to be able to come back after running 13.39. It sets Isaiah up to be a little bit better, and it will take better to be where he wants to be.”

For Florida State timber-topper Trey Cunningham, a 13.47 win at Mt. SAC meant a lot. “This proved that FSU Relays [where he ran 13.43w] wasn’t a fluke; it wasn’t the wind,” he says. “I can run in the 40s. Now we’ll see how much quicker we can go from here on out.” He adds, “After this race it’s just keeping the mindset, ‘Run as fast as Trey can run,’ Whether that’s the new school record or the ACC record—which is the Collegiate Record [13.00 by Maryland’s Renaldo Nehemiah in ’79]—that’s what it will be. It will happen in time. I’ve just got to be patient, trust the training, trust myself and just focus on myself and the race.”

Arizona’s state division II HS cross country champion last fall was Hana Hall, who won in 18:07. Turns out the junior is the oldest daughter of pro notables Ryan and Sara Hall, adopted with her three sisters from an orphanage in Ethiopia. Says Sara, “I mean, honestly, I don’t know how she does what she does every day. She’s been dealt such a rough hand—even of the four of our kids, definitely the hardest hand. Being the oldest and never going to school. Starting school at 15. Was the least fit of all of them. And yet has just defined what it is to be an overcomer, you know?”

Oregon sprinter Cravon Gillespie has come a long way since his prep days in Monrovia, California, where he hit bests of 10.54 and 21.70. Now he sports PRs of 10.12 and 20.20, last year placing 4th in the NCAA 100. Coach Robert Johnson tells the Eugene Register-Guard, “The caterpillar is starting to turn into a butterfly. He was talented way back then, he was talented last year. You could see him start to scratch the surface. You can see some of the breakout stuff he’s doing.” Among his goals Gillespie is hoping to be the first Duck to break 10. The school record is Kyree King’s 10.00.

Two-time Olympic high jumper Jamie Nieto, who was paralyzed after landing wrong in a backflip several years ago, has regained much of his ability to walk, succeeding in his goal to walk down the aisle at his wedding. “Eventually, I started gaining more balance and stability. The steps got a little more solid. Even now, I use crutches to stabilize me.”
Nieto, who is an actor these days, plays a surgeon on the Pure Flix soap opera Hilton Head Island.

Erin Finn has had her struggles with injuries, but they have driven her studies. She recently finished her masters in Epidemiology with a capstone project focusing the female-athlete triad, part of which is decreased bone mineral density, a factor in many stress fractures. Another project of hers on bone density was presented at the Orthopedic Research Society Conference. Her next move is to begin medical school at Michigan. She says she will continue to run: “Medical school is hard, but it shouldn’t take away the essence of who you are, and if it does, you’re doing something wrong. Continuing to run is the essence of who I am, and to give it up would be giving up a part of me that was accepted to medical school.”

When Shadae Lawrence, the ’17 NCAA discus champion for Kansas State, transferred to Colorado State, one might have figured that the Ram school record would be in danger. That mark, 198-8 (60.55) by Shelly Borman in ’99, survived the Jamaican’s first four meets, but was doubly doomed on April 20. First, Lawrence took 2nd at the Beach Invitational with a new school record of 202-9 (62.80). Then she traveled the 15M to Torrance for the Mt. SAC Relays a few hours later, where she threw another school record (and Jamaican NR) with her 209-7 (63.89). Says coach Brian Bedard, “She did well and was fired up and wanted to throw again at Mt. SAC, and she really blew it up.”

A javelin throw of 243-0 (74.07) by Werner Bouwer at the Michael Johnson Invitational took down a 28-year-old school record at Texas Tech. The old best of 242-7 (73.94) was set in ’91 by Rodrigo Zelaya, a 3-time All-America.
Says Bouwer, “It’s an honor to finally get the school record. It is something I have been working really hard for, and it is very humbling. I decided to work extremely hard over the summer and the fall coming into this season. My goal was to be as strong and healthy as possible to put me in position to throw far.” Says throws coach Cliff Felkins, “It’s like an unfinished book. He’s a talent and he’s young, so we’re trying to mature him as a person and mature technically, and when that happens, it’ll all come together.”

Texas A&M’s Ciynamon Stevenson emerged as a national triple jump force at Waco. With a PR of 43-6 (13.26) from last year and a wind-aided best of 43-8 (13.31) from a week before, the junior bounced an impressive windy series, with a 44-0 (13.41) in round 3, 45-6½ (13.88) in round 4 and even farther (45-9¾/13.96) on her next try. “My first reaction to jumping 45 was thinking it’s finally here. The first attempt felt really good, so I thought today is the day. Jumping 45 twice was so emotional. I almost cried, but I held it in until we were done.”

For Stanford’s Grant Fisher, winning the 5000 at the Cardinal Classic in a PR 13:29.52—and closing in 4:05.8 for the final 1600—was all about practice: “Just tried to ramp it up at the end. It’s something I need to be ready for in a few weeks at NCAA’s, so I wanted to practice that skill set, really winding that last mile off of a pretty fast pace. That’s what you have to do at NCAA’s. You have to run that or faster in the last mile. I wanted to practice that.”

Reggie Jagers had an up-and-down weekend with the discus in April. The reigning USATF champion recounted on Instagram, “On Thursday I made a last-minute decision to jump into the OTC meet in Chula (4/11). Long story short, I couldn’t stay in the ring to save my life, fouled some big throws but mentally I had so many thoughts going through my head. I reset myself like a quarterback, I always aim to have short term memory in the throws, don’t bring your baggage into the ring.” Saturday in La Jolla was a different story, with a U.S.-leading 218-8 (66.67). “Developed a plan and executed the plan. Minor setback for a Major comeback. Being a professional, there isn’t an easy button, the highs and lows are what makes you.” ◻︎

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