While the majority of the participants at next week’s NCAA outdoor championships will compete in their one or two events and chill, Baylor’s Tiffany Townsend will be busy times four.
The 5-foot-6 senior sprinter from Killeen, Texas has qualified for the championships as No. 1 in the 100 meters sprint, No. 8 in the 200 meters and is a member of Baylors’s 4×100 relay (No. 7) and its 4×400 relay (No. 21). What’s a woman to do?
“My coach and I have been talking about it and we haven’t decided how we will do it,” Townsend said. “What we want to do is get in the top three and get a good lane. I don’t want to be thinking about times.
“I look forward to going back there [to Des Moines, where the Drake Relays are also held]. Rain or shine they have great fans. I just know I won’t be running myself to death. We just want to get through the rounds and be smart about taking care of myself.”
Listening to her body has been the key to a solid season. She’s been outstanding in the 100 with wins at the Arizona State Invitational and the UTA Bobby Lane Invitational, and a personal best and fourth-place finish at the Texas Relays (11.09). She also earned her way to Des Moines with an 11.30 at the West regionals last weekend. In the 200 meters, she had a second at the Big 12 championships (22.95).
So it appears Townsend is all the way back from last year’s bad back that impacted both her indoor and outdoor seasons. Her back was killing her and she could not figure out why. Even with the pain, she managed to make All-Big 12 in the 60 meters indoor.
Initially, she thought her spine was misaligned. But after treatment, the pain persisted. It was only after an MRI revealed she had a bulging disc. Still, Townsend tried to run with the pain, a decision that pushed her start of the outdoor season back until June when it was essentially over. Yet again, she still was talented enough to earn outdoors All-Big 12 and All-American honors 100 meters, 200 meters, 4×100 meter relay and All-Big 12 in the 4×400 relay.
“Trying to run with [the bulging disc] messed up my indoor season,” Townsend said. “In April I was just so tired. I was in so much pain. I wish I’d stopped the first indoor meet.”
But there were bigger things at stake. Townsend knew she was an integral part of Baylor’s overall success both indoor and outdoor and, for as long as she was able to be upright, help her team pick up as many points each time they competed.
“I should have listened to myself,” Townsend said. “But I was trying to help the team the best way I could. Really I wasn’t trying to pay attention to [her body].
“[Sitting out] was pretty horrible. All I could do was go out and watch everybody else. I couldn’t practice a good month. And I was so sick of treatment every day. But the time off probably helped me a lot. I learned a lot [about taking care of her body].”
So now to prevent a recurrence of back ailments, Townsend does an involved warmup that lots of stretching, lots of abdominal work on her core, back maintenance and work on a modified treadmill that takes pressure off her back.
Now Townsend, with multiple conference and All-American honors to her credit, looks to Des Moines. She’s accomplished much over her four years, but one thing has eluded her – an NCAA championship. That is definitely a goal this time out, but she will keep the totality of her career in the proper perspective and not allow her quest for that one missing goal consume her.
“It’s something I think about and something I want,” Townsend. “But I have had a good career here. I’m very proud of what I’ve done no matter what.
“I know my coach uses [not having an NCAA title] to motivate me. He’s always bringing it up, and it gets me angry. But it also helps me out. I want it, but I am happy with what I have.”