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Baylor women's 4x100 relay powers to school record, advances to NCAA final

Mar 23, 2023

Baylor's Mariah Ayers (behind) hands off to teammate Imaobong Uko in the semifinal running of the 4x100-meter relay at the NCAA meet Thursday in Austin. Baylor set a new school record at 43.15 seconds.

AUSTIN — Fractions of a second — literal blinks of an eye — are everything in track and field.

The Baylor women's 4x100 relay team was on the good side of those blinks on Thursday. The Bears advanced through the semifinal running of that race with the final qualifying time in a super-fast semifinal at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the University of Texas’ Mike A. Myers Stadium.

Baylor clocked a school-record 43.15 to pocket the eighth and final qualifying spot for Saturday's NCAA final. That was just a few slivers of a second ahead of Tennessee (43.25), the first team left out.

Baylor came in with a season-best time of 43.21, but the Bears notched that in their last meet at the NCAA West Prelims in Sacramento, showing that they were peaking at the right time. They were even faster and cleaner with their handoffs in this meet. Comprising the BU foursome were Mariah Ayers, Imaobong Uko, Bria Bullard and Michaela Francois.

Of course, it may be pretty tough to catch the home team. Texas delivered an emphatic message by breaking its own NCAA record, zipping to a time of 41.55, more than a second faster than anyone else.

That sprint relay won't be the only Baylor relay team competing on Saturday. The Bears’ 4x400 squad also qualified, earning an automatic spot by finishing second in their heat. The Bears got off to a strong start with Uko on the leadoff leg before passing to Gontse Morake, Jasmine Gryne and finally Ayers on the anchor.

Baylor ran 3:28.76, second in its heat to USC (3:27.88).

That race featured an earlier heat marked by a weird handoff by Texas that led to a disqualification, as one of the UT runners veered out of her lane before attempting to cross back to make the handoff.

Baylor's first-time national qualifier Annamaria Kostarellis nearly charged to an All-America finish in the 10,000-meter race. Kostarellis, a senior transfer from the University of New Mexico, finished ninth overall, just one spot off the podium, with a time of 33:21.34.

She actually hung near the front of the lead pack for much of the 25-lap race, but lost some steam in the final few laps. Still, it was quite a season for the senior, who broke Baylor's 5,000 and 10,000-meter records this year.

In the semis of the women's 400-meter hurdles, Baylor's Morake just missed out on a spot in the final. Morake busted out to the lead through the first 200 meters of her heat, but was passed by a pair of runners on the final straightaway. The top two runners from each of the three heats automatically qualify for the final, along with the next three fastest times. The BU junior from South Africa's time wasn't quite fast enough, as she finished 10th with a time of 56.43.

BU's Ayers failed to advance through the semis of the 200, clocking the 14th-best time of the 24 runners in the field at 22.81. UT junior Julien Alfred, one of the members of that record-setting sprint relay team, had the top time at 22.33.

The NCAA meet continues Friday with the final day of men's action. Baylor will have two events going, as sophomore Nathaniel Ezekiel competes in the 400-meter hurdles final and Baylor's 4x400 relay team races in that final.

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