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 am beyond humbled to announce my commitment to further my academic and athletic career at Baylor University. #SicEm #COMMITTED pic.twitter.com/ATYsN5HXMc— Simone Ballard (@simoneballard_) October 19, 2021
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.”