McBride Riding High In Track's Fast Lane

The on-campus speed limit is 20 mph. Which means Brandon McBride must dial it back a bit should he choose to run on a Mississippi State street. Well, that is, if he's going about 800 meters he does.

It's because, McBride is officially the fastest collegian in the country now at taking two hot laps of a track. The Bulldog sophomore has his trophy to prove it, after winning the NCAA Championship for the 800 meters.

"I keep it on my shelf," McBride said. "But I'm going to bring it back home with the collection I have. I like to keep everything together. Everything from race bibs and the race pins, that I hang them on. I'm weird like that."

Weird is a matter of opinion. Fast? That is fact. And McBride's ability to run very, very fast is proven by a growing collection of trophies and medals. He has added a trio to that group just in 2014. Along with the biggie, the outdoors national championship, McBride already owned the NCAA indoors trophy from spring. In-between he won the Southeastern Conference's medallion for the 800 meters.

The last one is what wins the most attention, at least so far in a fast-track career. In June, running on Oregon's Hayward Field track, McBride scorched the circuit in 1:46.26 to take the title. Oh, and that time that translates to around 28 mph even if the event was run in meters, a system McBride himself is more familiar with as a native of Windsor, Ontario. By whatever measure, it was quite a winning way for this Bulldog to complete his second year at Mississippi State…and to celebrate turning 20 just two days later.

"It just feels great, a huge accomplishment," said McBride. "To go out and do your best is an accomplishment in itself, let alone win. It's the icing on the cake."

In the national championship finals he had to out-run a pack of SEC peers with Florida's Ryan Schnulle pushing him most. Behind them were runners from Kentucky and Arkansas, too. The finish echoed McBride's conference championship earned in Lexington a month earlier, served as a strong signal that his #1 national ranking was very much merited.

In fact, and not surprisingly, McBride knew he had to beat his conference peers to take the national title. And he knew how, having measured himself against them for two seasons. Their styles dovetailed nicely with how McBride prefers to run the 800.

"The type of runner I am, I like to start off at a fast pace and put the pace on them early, so you can take some of the energy, some of the pop out of the kicker's legs. Going into the final I knew six of the eight guys like to race from the back and kick people down." He'd seen it in the Indoors meets too and beaten them anyway.

The irony this time was McBride didn't start quite as fast as he liked; a result he now figures came from windy conditions that hurt front-runners most. And with about 200 meters to go he admits a lapse in focus which let everyone catch up too soon. "I could kind of feel the guys coming up. With about 80 meters I woke up, with them basically tapping me on the back."

Fortunately it was McBride who had a little pop left at the end to hold off Schnulle…who oddly enough he could not see closing on the track's jumbotron. "I was focusing on Arkansas and Middle Tennessee." Florida's guy didn't take advantage as McBride hit the stripe first. Familiarity with most of his foes didn't breed any contempt, by the way. "I'm happy to compete with them. We see each other a lot, so we develop a little bit of a friendship. It's nice to bond with them, then see them on the big stage."

But even better to be first among these relative equals.

An excellent measure of how much McBride had to up his pace in the finals was that he'd won the semis in a relative lope of 1:48.09. However, his NCAA-winning time was not the best of McBride's season. He had clocked a faster 1:45.35 at April's Mt. Sac Relays run in California which is of course the Mississippi State reigning record. That was also fastest 800 time in the country by any collegian this season. Evidently something about west coast tracks or time zones or temperatures or whatever agrees with this Dog?

"It's definitely the conditions. Down South it's very hot, humid, and isn't ideal conditions to race distance." Note, as a ‘speed' guy McBride considers anything more than one lap a distance race. Either way, "That's why a lot of the SEC guys went to the west coach and are dropping huge PBs (Personal Bests)."

Personally, McBride has found a perfect fit as a Bulldog runner even if the Southern conditions aren't a whole lot like what he grew up with in Ontario. He was well-recruited by lots of colleges from all American regions but says when he met with Mississippi State's staff the whole family saw an instant connection.

"Just the feel. And Coach (Steve) Dudley was just different, I had a feeling I was going to develop a good relationship with him.

In turn McBride has developed into the next great Bulldog trackman. Not, he said, that this is his personal peak with his college career only at half-way. And even with such success already, he admits to real pre-race nerves. "It's funny, but what you see on the track is different than what you see in the background. I go in the tent and have a little meltdown before the race and (the coaches) kind of have to put me back together.

That, and some help from above as McBride runs through his pre-competition prayers. Not for victory, however. "I ask Him to allow me to do my best." As his record already shows, McBride's best is very, very good indeed. Championship good in fact.

McBride isn't slowing down for summer. He is heading to the Canadian Senior Nationals meet in New Brunswick. "And then I'm going to Scotland, for the Commonwealth Games. And if everything goes well we might stay in Europe a couple of weeks and look for some races, and do some sightseeing."

International competition is a big part of McBride's progress of course. Because two years from now he hopes to be carrying Canada's colors to the starting line for the 2016 Olympic Games. In Brazil by the way, where maybe his Southern conditioning could be an even bigger benefit.

"I just want to represent my country on the big stage. That would be a huge accomplishment." As would winning the top trophy, or medal, of them all, though since he'll be just 22 McBride will surely have more chances as he reaches a professional peak. Hmmm, maybe he ought already start planning a larger place for displaying the souvenirs of success?

"That would be nice, to have a room. But at this point I have a little shelf!"

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