All-America athlete from KCK overcomes injuries to set records in hurdles for Baylor

 

Tiffani McReynolds, center, a Kansas City, Kan., senior at Baylor University, won the 60-meter hurdles at the Big 12 indoor championship in March. McReynolds had a time of 8.10 in this event. Her season best is 7.93, second place in the NCAA championships March 15. One of her competitors in the Big 12 event was Le’Tristan Pledger, left, also from Kansas City, Kan., who is a sophomore at Texas Tech. The two could compete again this weekend in outdoor hurdles competition in the Texas Relays. On the right in this photo is Erica Twiss, a Kansas State University senior from Carrollton, Texas. (Photo from Baylor University)

by Mary Rupert

All-America athlete Tiffani McReynolds has overcome many obstacles along the way toward setting records for Baylor University.

McReynolds set one new school record for Baylor in taking a national second place in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships March 15 in Albuquerque, N.M., and is planning to compete in outdoor competition this weekend at the Texas Relays.

McReynolds, a senior from Kansas City, Kan., plans to return to outdoor competition for the first time since 2012.  She has been in indoor hurdles competition so far this year, coming back from an injury in her sophomore year and a fractured tibia her junior year.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been able to compete, and I take advantage of every moment, thankful I’m not hurting as much as I usually am, not dealing with any injuries,” McReynolds said this week. “It was definitely a learning curve for me; I was humbled by both of those experiences and learned a great deal from those.”

After the injuries, she missed some of the outdoor season where she was the previous Big 12 champion.

McReynolds, a Pembroke Hill graduate, said her goals are “just being able to enjoy the run each and every time I have an opportunity.”

“This weekend I just want to have fun and enjoy the Texas Relays and enjoy the crowd, that’s a great meet,” she said.

While a long way from Kansas City, Kan., McReynolds could see another track and field athlete from KCK at the Texas Relays this weekend.  Texas Tech sophomore Le’Tristan Pledger, a Washington High School graduate, is one of the younger outstanding competitors on the horizon in the Big 12. Pledger was named one of the Tri-Female Athletes of the Week by the Big 12 Conference this week and plans to compete at the Texas Relays, too, but in a separate event from McReynolds. Pledger had a time of 13:16 in the 100-meter outdoor hurdles at the UTSA Invitational, which is the current leading time this year in that event. Last year, Pledger red-shirted for Texas Tech, and also competed in the long jump in the World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain.

Record-holder

One of the nation’s top hurdlers, McReynolds finished second in the nation March 15 in a near-photo finish at the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. Her time of 7.93 missed first place by .007.  McReynolds’ time was the eighth fastest ever in collegiate history. First place went to Sharika Nelvis of Arkansas State.

McReynolds’ time on March 15 also was a school record for Baylor. And McReynolds set the previous Baylor record the year before with a time of 7.96. This year was McReynolds’ third time as runner-up in this race in her college career, and it was her fourth straight year of being named an All-America athlete. She became the first Baylor athlete, male or female, to earn All-America in the same event at the indoor national meet for four straight years.

Besides holding the Baylor record for the 60-meter indoor hurdles, McReynolds also holds the school record for the 100-meter outdoor hurdles. The outdoor record goes back to 2011, when McReynolds broke the school record and set her personal best in the 100-meter outdoor hurdles, 12.74 at the Texas Relays.

Before she came to Baylor, McReynolds also set some records while she was at high school at Pembroke Hill in Kansas City, Mo. In her high school years, she was an AAU Junior Olympic National Champion and All-America in both the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles, and was the indoor national champion in the 60-meter hurdles and 60 meters.

Keeping healthy

“I’ve been very pleased with how she’s performed this year so far,” said Mike Ford, a Baylor coach. He said his goal this year was trying to keep her healthy for outdoor competition. She came very close to winning the indoor national championship.

“She’s running fast times at the right times of the year,” Ford said.

At 5 feet tall, McReynolds doesn’t have as much height as some of the other athletes.

“She’s a competitor, a huge talent,” Ford said, “a really big engine in a small frame.”

Coaches at Baylor helped McReynolds with special training after her injuries. She used an antigravity treadmill, and had more time off than usual, Ford said.  She didn’t race as much going into the indoor nationals. And the trainer and coach used some special exercises to work on weak areas and make corrections, he said.

Family support

McReynolds, the daughter of Kevin and Vicki McReynolds of Kansas City, Kan., and the granddaughter of Arthur and Delois Tucker of Kansas City, Kan., and Marilyn McReynolds, Kansas City, Kan., had a lot of family support at her track meets, and has some very proud relatives in Kansas City, Kan.  The Tuckers went to the NCAA championship meet this month in Albuquerque to cheer her on.

“For her grandparents to travel, that was huge for her just before nationals,” coach Ford said. “The drive from Kansas City all the way to Albuquerque, that’s a wonderful thing.”

She also had a lot of family support throughout her younger days in track.

“Her mother ran track at Washington High School, ran the hurdles, and still left some marks for them to catch up to,” Delois Tucker remarked.

Tiffani gives the credit for her success to God.

“God blessed me with this talent and just set everything up so nicely for me to come to Baylor,” she said. “He’s been able to help me be successful, so everything is attributed to Him. Without Him, I would not have been able to do anything.”

And second to that, she credits her family.

“They’ve been through me with everything, my parents and grandparents have been supportive of my decisions, always traveled with me to my meets,” McReynolds said. Although it’s harder to travel to Texas, they have come to as many as they possibly can, she said.

“I really appreciate that, it made my college experience really enjoyable,” McReynolds said.

Planning to turn pro

Majoring in public relations with a concentration in marketing, McReynolds said she would like to be an agent or publicist in the field of sports and public relations.

But graduation from Baylor will not be the end of her sports career. She plans to compete professionally after graduation, she said.

McReynolds competed at the USA trials in 2012, but because of injuries, did not get on the Olympics team. She plans to try again.

“Being on the Olympic team is something I’ve dreamed about for a long time, since I was younger,” McReynolds said. “Making the 2016 Olympics in Rio is definitely something on my goal list.”

It’s difficult to make the team, because only the top three people in the finals of the event are selected, she said.

Coach Ford said the USA team is strong in hurdlers, and she would probably have to run 12.6 or 12.5 (faster than her current best of 12.74) to make the top three at the Olympic trials.

“I think she’s capable of doing that, either in the 2016 or the 2020 Olympics,” he said.

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