The Real (Fast) McCoy

Auburn, Ala.--A former SEC champion in the 400 meter hurdles, senior Reuben McCoy says he is looking forward to his last competition in Auburn as the Tigers prepare to play host to the 2008 SEC Track and Field Championships that run Thursday through Sunday.

"I still have some of the butterflies going into the meet," McCoy tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "It is hard for me to believe this is my last SEC Championships. I am really excited because I feel like I am going to go out with something to make the whole crowd and myself smile about."

McCoy became one of the nation's top collegiate 400-meter hurdlers as a sophomore, the season he won the SEC title and finished fourth at the NCAA Championships. However, slowed by an injury last season, he took a step backwards as a junior, but all systems are go for a big finish.

"A key thing for me is my technique and race strategy," McCoy says. "It is a rhythm race. If I get that accomplished, I feel I will be in striking range to win an SEC Championship."

McCoy has a best time this spring of 50.12 seconds in the 400 hurdles, which is the fifth fastest by a collegian this year. His personal record is 49.22, faster than anybody has run this year. The winner of the race at the SEC meet will likely have to run in the 49s to take the title if the weather conditions are good for the event on Sunday.

"Physically, especially after last year coming off of an injury and everything, I feel like my body is back in the right proportion, my strength is back and I am in the best shape of my life," McCoy says.

"My goal is to just go out there and give it my best and make sure after I am done and SECs are over I can look in the mirror and say I am proud of what I have done out there on the track and just enjoy the moment," he adds.

Reuben McCoy

McCoy, who graduated last Saturday with a degree in English, notes that he will check in at 6-1, 170 pounds for the conference meet this week. "I am getting a lot of comments that I sprouted over the past couple of months," he says with a smile. "I guess I have finally reached the golden plateau of six-foot-one, a great height for a hurdler."

Auburn head coach Ralph Spry, who is McCoy's personal coach for the hurdles, says he is looking forward to seeing the senior run. "The number one guy in the country is in the league with us, a guy out of Georgia, so he has got his hands full, but Reuben is a competitor and I feel good about our chances with Reuben here at home.

"He has been running very well the past month and a half," Spry notes. "If Reuben runs the race he is capable of running, I think he has a good shot of beating the guy from Georgia (Justin Gaymon) and being an SEC champion. As far as nationals are concerned, he has been there before and is a two-time All-American."

Gaymon ran a 49.26 at the Drake Relays, which is the season's fastest time in the challenging 400 meter race, a test of speed and endurance over 10 hurdles spread out over a quarter of a mile. Another racer for McCoy to contend with this week is Johnny Dutch of South Carolina, who has run a 49.78.

Spry has built his teams to focus on doing well at the nationals with the SEC meet not as high a priority. While the women's team, the NCAA champions two years ago, is rebuilding this season and not a factor to win the team title for the SEC meet, the men could make a run at being league champs. However, with the conference loaded with talented teams that won't be easy, McCoy notes. "We are all going to have to compete and have serious gut-checks," he says.

"I think guys are going to have to push themselves to a whole other limit," McCoy adds. "I think a lot of personal records would really help. We have the potential to do it."

Going into the SEC meet, Auburn is ranked ninth nationally. Florida is No. 2, LSU is ranked third, Tennessee is 14th, Arkansas is 15th, Kentucky is 18th and Georgia is 23rd.

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