MSU Track and Field on the Rise

MSU track and field, down for so long, has seen a turnaround in its fortune. The men's team is currently ranked 4th in the country and has several athletes who will participate in the upcoming NCAA National Championship Meet. Read what MSU track assistant Steve Dudley and sprinter Dion Crabbe have to say about this year's track team and what the future holds.

MSU Assistant Track Coach Steve Dudley:

Talk about last Sunday's SEC races where MSU scored most of its points.
"We started the day off with a dropped baton on the first exchange in the 4x100. We were going into as the number 2 team in the nation. That was a huge, huge setback. That was like somebody ripping your heart out. I think you got a good taste of what kind of heart these guys have after seeing them bounce back and go 2 and 4 in the 100 (meters). And then seeing them come back in the 200 meters and 2, 4, 7,8. Tennessee has the number 1 and 2 ranked guys in the nation and we split them up.

"Probably the number one positive I got out of my group was after the dropped baton, I went over to ask them what did we learn from that experience. They weren't fussing and fighting. I have seen many teams, after dropping the baton, fussing and fighting. They all looked at me and said, 'hey coach, let's wait for practice, we'll correct it in practice.' These guys came together and said, 'hey, we have to pick up where we left off. They got those points back that we lost.

"We have two automatic qualifiers in the 200 meters. Dion Crabbe ran a 20.31, which is his country's (Tortola, Virgin Islands) national record. Pierre Browne also ran a personal record on our track. Glenn McFadden ran a 20.84 which gives him another chance next week to qualify in the open 200 (meters) at Georgia Tech. Then you have Marquis (Davis), who had an injury and shouldn't have run the 200, but ran it anyway."

I noticed you have a freshman, J.D. Erickson, who scored in the shot put and discus throw.
"J.D. is a walk-on athlete out of Memphis. He got 7th in the shot put and 8th in the discus."

Another freshman, LaChristopher Lewis, also ran a good race in the 400 meter race.
"Lewis started out as a walk-on from Coldwater, Mississippi. He ran a 46.20, which makes him an NCAA provisional qualifier.

"We are young. The young lady (Tiffany McWilliams) that got 2nd in the 1500 meters is a freshman. Megan Hodge, who scored in the 10000 meters is a freshman. People may look at the (SEC) rankings and be disappointed but we have (our program) turned. It is going in the right direction. We also signed a very good recruiting class, including Garland Martin, Jamel Ashley, Lauren Johnson, Bernice Johnson, Courtney Davis, and Trey Hardee."

Talk a little about those signees.
"Ashley was national champion in the 4x100, runner-up in the 100, 200, 60 in NJCAA Nationals. He is a stellar athlete. Martin was national junior college champion Indoors in the 60 hurdles, national junior college champion in the 110 hurdles, USA Junior Champion in the 110 hurdles, 3rd at the World Junior Championships in Santiago, Chile. He will run the 110 and 400 hurdles and a leg on the 4x400. He is very versatile. Ashley will run the 100, 200, 400, 4x400. He is also very versatile. Johnson (who is from Alabama) will do the same on the women's side. Bernice Johnson over at Columbus (Mississippi), like Johnson, has several state titles. Trey Hardee is one of the top 15 high school pole vaulters in the nation."

You say you feel you have turned this program around. Where do you see it next year in the SEC and the NCAA?
"I feel like we can be a (men's) team that is 4th or 5th in the SEC next year, whereas we are 9th. I think, when we go to the NCAA National Championship next year, we will have a chance to win it. On the women's side, we are looking at 6th, maybe even 5th. Nationals, maybe top 25. On the women's side, we have had to totally reconstruct them."

Explain what you mean by provisional qualifier.
"You have a provisional standard and an automatic standard. He reached the provisional standard. (The NCAA) will go about 20 deep, the top 20 to 22 ranked people. The automatic qualifiers get to go, but anybody below that, they take the top 20. If you provisionally qualify, they have what is called 'last chance' meets. If you provisionally qualify, you get the opportunity to run in those meets. Georgia Tech is where they get to go. LaChristopher Lewis did that and Glenn McFadden, by the skin of his teeth, gets to go. He is just now catching fire because he did not have a fall (he was not academically eligible until the spring). He was the top high school sprinter in the nation last year."

How many of the sprinters you mentioned are seniors?
"One, Dion Crabbe, but we have him for indoors next season. Dion is a good leader. He has worked hard for us all year."

Were you disappointed in the points or overall standings in this meet?
"You have to look at Indoors, we tied for last Indoors (in the SEC Indoors Meet) but got 9th in the Nationals."

But people will look at the standings and say, 'but they were 9th in the SEC Meet', how can you wind up in the top 10 in Nationals?
"We scored 35 points in this meet. That is the same number of points that we will score at Nationals, because of the areas we are in. You saw how fast Tennessee ran, they are the number 1 and 2 ranked sprinters in the nation and we are the number 3, 4, and 5 ranked. Then you throw all 212 to 300 schools that are in the NCAA in the pot and all the points get spread very, very thin across the board. Whereas, we still sit there with 35 points. All of sudden we escalate to near the top. You score 1 through 8 at this conference meet. You have a lot of 6th, 7th and 8th place finishes at a lot of events that don't even get to go to Nationals. Every person that has scored (for MSU), basically, get to go to Nationals."

Anything else you want to say?
"If you would, tell the people thank you for coming out to the SEC Meet. We had a lot of people who doubted that we could put people in the stands but we did all three nights."

MSU Sprinter Dion Crabbe:

"Just working with the guys on the team, guys like Pierre Browne, Marquis Davis, Glenn McFadden, pushes you every day. You have no choice but to run fast. I am working with world-class guys. I give all the credit to my teammates. They push me every day, every day. My teammates make me strong."

You have to feel great having four Mississippi State runners in the 200 meters event?
"It has just started. Check us out in the Nationals."

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