Very Good This Year; Even Better Next Year

Mississippi State track, currently ranked 13th in the nation, will be competing in the nationals starting Wednesday. And if things go well, this year's team could wind up being a top-10 team. But next year's track team could do even better due to several reasons.

"I think the best we can do right now is 8th, but if everybody runs their (best) race we could win it all," said junior sprinter Dwight Mullings.

Dwight is not being pessimistic when he says that, just realistic. But this same Dwight Mullings, being just as realistic, expects even greater things next season.

"Next year we will train for a national championship (because) we have a bunch of good recruits coming in," he noted. "If they come in and choose to train and practice like us, we can do it."

Two of those 'good recruits' are two of the three best high school 400 meters runners in America - Tavaris Tate (1st) and Daundre Barnaby (3rd). Dwight hosted both when they came in for their official visits.

"I hosted Tavaris Tate (of Starkville High School) and Daundre (Barnaby), the boy from Connecticut," said Dwight. "(MSU associate head coach) Steve Dudley chose me to host those guys because he looks at me as a team person."

Mississippi State head track coach Al Schmidt agrees with Dwight's assessment of the incoming recruits.

"There are no bounds with Tavaris Tate because he is as good of a recruit as we have ever had, and we've had some great recruits here," said Al "He is a program builder. We just have to make sure he understands that it's one step at a time and to never get ahead of yourself."

Tate was recruited by just about every top track program in the country, including SEC powers LSU, Florida and Arkansas.

"I also think (Daundre) Barnaby is another one (who can make a difference). And if he continues to develop, we have a long jumper, (junior college transfer) Jeff Henderson, that we just signed, who could be a 26, 27, 28-foot long jumper some day."

Barnaby chose Mississippi State over LSU, Connecticut, Boston University, Nebraska and North Carolina, among others. Henderson is a four-time junior college national champion in the long jump (2 indoors and 2 outdoors).

And it's not just the incoming recruits that has Schmidt with high hopes for next season. There are numerous returning athletes who could vault Mississippi State to the status of one of the elite teams in the nation next season.

"(Sophomore Emanuel Mayers) has worked himself up to a point where he is as good as there is in this country," said Al. "Dwight is number three in the country (in the 400 meters). D'Angelo Cherry is also third best in the nation (in the 100 meters) as a freshman.

"Our triple jumper, who came in in January, (junior) Kendrick Poullard, made it to regionals. If he continues to progress, he is going to score for us at nationals.

"Matthew Cameron is a sophomore this year who is a four-minute miler. He was very, very close to making it to the national championship in the 1,500 meters. He was at regionals but he just didn't make it though. He's getting to the point where he is a national caliber miler.

"We are also excited about a couple of our decathletes that are getting older and better, (sophomore) Martin Lee and (freshman) Trevarus Christian.

"And we redshirted a (sophomore) named Ed Wesela, who is a 60+-foot shot putter. By the time he hits his stride next year he could very well score 2 or 3 points at nationals as well."

And you can add to that number one, possibly two, national caliber athletes who, like Wesela, are redshirting this year.

"And you will have Kendall Mayes coming back off of an injury and (possibly) (MSU football player) O'Neal Wilder, if he decides to come back with us again (after redshirting this season)."

And Al is not just excited about his incoming and returning athletes but the caliber of his current coaching staff, the best he's ever been associated with, not just at Mississippi State but in his entire 37 years of coaching track and field.

"I also feel like I have the best coaching staff that I have ever had, obviously," said Al, who has now coached track at MSU 21 years. "Steve (Dudley) is as good as there is. Bryan (Fetzer), Houston (Franks), April (Thomas) are as good as anybody has. And having Tiffany McWilliams, I think I have proven that I can coach distance."

With all the ingredients in place, Al sees a bright future for next season.

"If all of those things come into play, then we definitely could be in for a national championship," said Al. "Next year could be the best team that we have had overall."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.


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