MSU Track Teams Headed To Regionals

The Mississippi State track teams - men and women - have several athletes who will be competiting in next week's regionals in various events. Included among those are seniors Chris Woods, Golden Coachman and Jamil Hubbard, as well as true freshman O'Neal Wilder on the men's side and Marrissa Harris on the women's side. Gene's Page talked to the five after their Tuesday morning practice.

Senior Chris Woods

What are your thoughts heading into the regional.
"I am pretty confident that we will make it into the NCAA championships. I really feel like everybody in our group has a chance to make it into the NCAAs from the 800 to the 100."

You are obviously a senior. What's these four years been like for you while at Mississippi State?
"It was kind of a tough transition my freshman year coming from Atlanta to Mississippi because things slowed down so much. But as far as my college career as a whole, I'm pretty pleased with it. Over the past four years, I've gained an entire new family. Everybody out here are like my brothers and my sisters. And the coaches are like my uncles. If I had an opportunity to go back and change things I don't think I would change anything."

It sounds like you are happy you chose Mississippi State.
"I am VERY happy I chose Mississippi State."

Senior Golden Coachman

What's it like for you to go into the regionals?
"It's a big difference from last year because I didn't have much riding on me because I was new and nobody knew what I was capable of. But this year it's a different story, kind of like running with a bullseye on your back. Everybody knows who I am this year.

"As for the regional itself, it's going to be like the SEC all over again minus three teams. It'll be the same people racing against. It will be another tough, fast race."

You've been through it before, so you won't have butterflies this year. That experience has to help some doesn't it?
"Experience helps, but if you love the sport as much as I do you are always going to have butterflies. People say if you aren't nervous before you race, then you need to find something else to do because that means you don't care about the sport anymore."

So, you want to be nervous?
"It makes you run faster. It takes the thoughts of pain out of your head, too."

How do you, as a senior, help a freshman like O'Neal Wilder who is going into his first regional ever?
"Coach Dudley always tells us you can't go out easy, you have to always go out hard every time. You can't relax because as soon as you relax they are on your back and have passed you."

How did you get the name Golden?
"Everybody thinks it's my nickname. I have to pull out my license to prove it to people. I got it from my great grandfather. His first name was Golden as well."

Senior Jamil Hubbard

How confident do you feel going into the regionals?
"I feel pretty confident. I just hope everything goes well. I know we are training real hard."

Do you normally train like you did today?
"It's the depth and speed that we do it. That's how we get things out of it. If we hit that mark, then it works well with our race. We have already done all of our conditioning. Now we are working on speed work."

I jog a little bit, and that's hard for me to do mentally. But you guys run not only a lot but really fast day after day. How do you do it mentally?
"It takes a lot of hard work. And you have to want to do it. You can't just wake up one day and say I'm going to run."

Is it enjoyable running every day?
"It's a lot of fun, but I really run for the competition. That's what I run for."

What do you tell a young guy like O'Neal Wilder about running?
"I tell him all the time don't ever give up, stay hungry. And keep your eye on the prize. And he does really well with that. He's never been a cocky guy."

Freshman O'Neal Wilder

You've got one of the best in the world to go against in practice every day in Jamil Hubbard. How much does that help you?
"I always look forward to running against somebody that I can beat. I run to that person's ability. One day I will, hopefully, be able to beat him."

You can't beat him right now?
"I can try my best. Every time we race it's a dogfight and it always comes down to the wire."

You are a true freshman. Did you expect to have the kind of season that you've had?
"I wasn't expecting to have the season that I am having. Now, I'm just glad I stuck it out and ran track. It was hard during the spring playing football, then coming out here and running. I was tired and sometimes thought about giving up, but I'm glad I didn't."

Did you participant in track in high school?
"Yeah, I ran three years."

So, you had experience running track?
"Not really, I just got out there and ran. There wasn't a lot of training."

What have you learned since you have been here?
"I've learned how to control my racing. I've learned how to be relax while I'm running and not be as wild. I learned how to hold my speed down so that I will have enough speed to come through at the finish line. But it also helps me run faster against stronger athletes."

How difficult was it to play both sports at the same time?
"It was pretty hard, but the coaches were flexible with it. (Track) Coaches Schmidt and Dudley talked to my football coaches. And they help them understand what I was going to be doing."

Coach Schmidt told he that you look and run like Randy Moss, one of the NFL's top wide receivers. What do you think about that?
"Coach Croom says the same thing. I just hope that I can hold up to that name because I will be a better athlete if I can."

Junior Marrissa Harris

Talk about going into the regionals. Are you nervous, excited?
"Yeah, I'm nervous and excited. I'm really excited that I have a couple of my teammates going with me."

When did you notice that you were pretty good in track?
"The last two years I have been pretty decent, really close to going to the nationals or winning the SEC. But this year, I got more consistent on things I needed to work on. And I had a little better practices. Because of that, it was more fun for me and less stressful."

Although you are heading to the regionals next week, you also know you will be in the NCAA Championships because you are already qualified. How does that feel?
"It's really exciting because it's my first year to go. Of course, I'm pretty nervous, but I'm also very happy."

In your event, the heptathlon, you have to be good in a lot of different events. That's got to be tough.
"You have to be, if not good, at least very, very decent in everything, so that you can score a lot of points."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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