At 5 feet, 91 pounds, freshman hurdler and sprinter Tiffani McReynolds and her tiny frame reel in curious glances at every track meet. But the back of her extra-small size jersey burns in the minds of her opponents as she shoots out of the block past the rest of the pack.
The first time McReynolds hit the track was in fifth grade, when her mother pulled their car over to speak with a coach leading a track practice. The next day, McReynolds began her journey as a hurdler, following in the footsteps of her mother.
Struggling to get over the hurdles at such a small age and size, McReynolds earned the name “Froggy,” as she incorrectly stepped over the hurdles. Throughout her high school career at Pembroke Hill High School in Kansas City, Kan., she acquired a nice collection of frog memorabilia from her parents and friends.
“I wore frog socks all throughout high school when I ran. My mom still gets me frog things to this day — my room is covered in frogs,” McReynolds said.
Competing in track at the collegiate level was without question in her mind, but McReynolds spent months debating on the college fit for her.
“I remember really thinking about schools looking at me as just another athlete, or really caring about my education. That’s why I chose Baylor. Baylor is based on a great message and strengthens my faith,” McReynolds said.
McReynolds especially connected with Baylor’s associate coach, Mike Ford.
“Coach Ford reminds me a lot of my hurdles coach from high school. He doesn’t play games. He keeps it real. He seemed the most truthful to me and my family, about everything,” McReynolds said.
Ford admires her truthfulness as a competitor, as well.
“She’s humble, but she sets goals on what she wants to do,” Ford said. “She’s a sweet girl who loves to laugh, but at the same time she has that switch to get focused. Usually, I worry about athletes being imbalanced on fun and working, but she stays level-headed because she can have fun.”
Head track and field coach Todd Harbour said he could not be happier with McReynolds’ decision to attend and thrive at Baylor. Her rookie year results have exceeded the expectations of the coaching staff at Baylor as well as projections from those that would not offer her a scholarship because of her small size.
“I never think about my size. Growing up, everybody told me I was short. That’s what makes it so fun. Going into meets, I hear, ‘Oh, she’s so cute!’ Then we take it to the track. I like shocking people,” McReynolds said.
Bringing a long list of high school honors, McReynolds has made instant and exponential progress at Baylor in record-shattering fashion. She can check defying the norm and setting NCAA standards off her freshman to-do list — all the while wearing a smile.
“She has an unbelievable personality, always happy and so full of joy. The joy of the Lord is truly her strength, and that characterizes how she competes,” Harbour said.
When asked to describe her career thus far, Harbour shook his head, searching for words.
“Astronomical. Not only has Tiff improved, but she’s taken her talents to an amazing level. She’s at the top of the nation. Phenomenal. Crazy,” Harbour said.
Ford, who has been with her every step of her Baylor career, can’t help but chuckle when analyzing her progress.
“She’s better and faster than I expected. I could see a freshman’s sprints dropping half a second, at best. But dropping a full second? Based on what she’s done, she’s reached that elite athlete status,” Ford said.
In one season, still remaining incomplete, McReynolds has collected a list of honors as she inches her way to her main goal. She said she is motivated by her dream to participate on the 2012 United States Olympic team.
Revisiting her accomplishments, McReynolds was an indoor All-American, runner-up in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships, Big 12 champion in the 60-meter hurdles and she broke Baylor’s indoor 60-meter hurdles record four times.
For the outdoor season thus far, she was the Texas Relays 100-meter hurdles champion, won the 100-meter hurdles at the ASU Invitational, broke Baylor’s outdoor 100-meter record three times and is ranked No. 1 in the NCAA in the 100-meter hurdles.
The record book says McReynolds is a force to be reckoned with, and her coaches, fellow competitors and fellow national record holders are watching her closely as she hurdles her way into history.