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Mayde Creek senior Simone Ballard recently verbally committed to continue her track and field career at Baylor.
In middle school, Simone Ballard would compare her track times to those of older athletes, high school and even some in college, to see how she measured up.
She came away thinking the same thing each time.
"It was then that I knew, if I worked hard, I could one day compete on the collegiate level," Ballard said.
So, the dynamic runner went out and worked.
On Oct. 19, the Mayde Creek senior verbally committed to Baylor, where she will compete in the hurdles and sprints. Ballard is a decorated recruit for the Bears, whom she chose over Dartmouth, South Florida, UCLA, and Mississippi State.
First, I’d like to acknowledge that none of this would be possible without the unfailing glory and grace of GOD. I… https://t.co/9gbW6DN0SD — Simone Ballard (@Simone Ballard)
Ballard is a nationally ranked hurdler, a seven-time Junior Olympian and a four-time All-American. She holds personal records of 13.96 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles, 45.37 seconds in the 300-meter hurdles, and 12.1 seconds in the 100-meter dash. At the USA Track and Field National Youth Outdoor Championships in June in Georgia, she finished second in the 100 hurdles with a time of 14.38.
At five years old, Ballard started competing in track and field with the youth club Track Houston. Since then, she's never let up.
"I liked the fact that no one can discredit your accomplishments," Ballard said. "The clock doesn't lie."
Ballard said she cannot remember learning to hurdle. She grew up watching her older siblings compete in the event.
"One day, my mom took me to see if I could learn to hurdle and it just came naturally," Ballard said. "I ran up and, to everyone's surprise, I was able to take the hurdle, decent form and all. I don't ever remember being afraid of the hurdles."
While her start as a hurdler came rather easily, mastering it has not been so.
Ballard credits much of her success to her personal coach Marlon Odom, praising his ability to break down the sport, and explain things in a way she can understand and he can demonstrate.
"I'm still learning and improving daily," Ballard said. "You must have a certain mentality to be successful at hurdling. You must be resilient. My thought process is to be aggressive, attack, and run through the hurdles as if they are not even there. I constantly rely on drills and believing that I am the best on the line that day."
That innate competitive drive is appropriately accompanied by lofty aspirations.
"This year, I plan to run, run fast and have fun," Ballard said. "One goal is to help my team make it to the state championship and enjoy my senior season. After high school track is over, I would like to compete in the World U20 Champions, representing the USA."
HOUSTON - When Kyron Drones walked into the house on Monday night, the list of schools of interest had been narrowed down to two - Baylor and Auburn - for the Shadow Creek signal-caller.
When Drones took everything into account, the determining factor for the 2019 State Champion was family. Wherever Drones ended up running out of the tunnel starting in 2021, when he looked up in the stands he wanted to see his favorite fans every game.
So, Waco was the place for him.
"It'll mean a lot, because in my first year in college I want them at all of my games,"Drones, who verbally committed to Baylor on Wednesday night, said. "Just like how I had the support in my high school career with my family packed in the stands to watch me play. I want that to be the same in college.
"I can't imagine coming out of the locker room and nobody being there."
#AGTG COMMITTED🐻‼️@COACHJUICE_ @CoachDaveAranda @CoachFedora @Kirk_BryantBU @BUFootball pic.twitter.com/FQrb5IIUil
— ⓀⓎⓇⓄⓃ🖤🏁 (@KyronDrones) April 29, 2020
\What is wild about this entire story is just four months ago, Drones had just led his Shadow Creek team to a perfect 16-0 record, won the Class 5A Division I State Championship and been named State Title game Offensive MVP.
But had zero offers.
His first came the day after winning the state title from William & Mary University. Then it was a flood.
"It was surreal," Drones said. "I was expecting this but nobody else was. During the season I was talking to my dad and I was frustrated that all these people were getting looks and I had nobody. He said 'Coaches like winners and all you have to do is win'. That's what I kept doing. We won state and all the schools started coming."
Baylor was among the most recent programs to offer Drones.
The Bears went through a coaching change this offseason when Matt Rhule left for the NFL to become the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. Enter David Aranda from the 2019 National Champion LSU Tigers.
"I like how Coach Aranda is," Drones said. "He isn't straight football. He's mostly more worried about the person and then football later. He wants you to be a better man when you leave Baylor. That's what I liked."
Drones attended the Baylor-Iowa State game this past year, which he attended with current high school and future college teammate Seth Jones, who signed with Baylor in February.
"At Auburn, I didn't know anyone," Drones said. "So, I would have been on my own. At Baylor, I know Seth and his people. That helped my decision too."
The recruiting process for Drones was even more difficult due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Unlike some recruits who've had offers dating back to the fall and the ability to take unofficial or official visits to those campuses, Drones didn't get that part fully. With the ability to visit a college campus unlikely to be allowed until the summer or even as late as September, Drones felt he had to secure a spot now.
"It was really hard, I didn't know if I wanted to wait for all of this to blow over to go visit or just make a decision," Drones said. "I was seeing a lot of people commit, so I knew I had to secure a spot."
With the recruiting process shutdown for Drones, he can focus on the next challenge at hand - preparing for Class 6A football.
The Shadow Creek football program is an unbelievable 31-1 in its two years of playing varsity football. That was done at the Class 5A level. Heading into 2020, the Sharks move into District 23-6A with district-mate Alvin, the Alief ISD programs, Strake Jesuit, Pearland and Pearland Dawson.
"I'm really exciting," Drones said. "We already have people starting to doubt us. Saying we're not ready for 6A. I just want to tell them we are and there is really no difference."
#SicEm Fans ... Your next QB1 #txhsfb @KyronDrones verbally committed to Baylor on Wednesday afternoon | 2019 State Champ | State Title Game Off. MVP | 16-0 as a starter | @SCSharkFootball @SCSharkRecruits @ShadowCreekHS @CoachDrones @coachbbutler @SicEm365 @BaylorBears247 pic.twitter.com/NkwIeC8gCN
— vypehouston (@vypehouston) April 29, 2020