A Q&A With MSU Track Athlete Tavaris Tate

Mississippi State 400 meter freshman sprinter Tavaris Tate goes step-by-step through the process as to how he made the US World Games team, what it was like to be at the World Games and what went through his mind during and at the conclusion of the 4x4 race. He helped his team record the 4th fastest time in the history of the world in the 4x4 indoor relay event.

How did you wind up on the United States 4x4 relay team for the World Games?
"Mississippi State is not a men's indoor track school, so we can't go to indoor track meets and represent Mississippi State. I was able to go to the Indoor Visa Classic and qualified for the World team. I got fourth in the open 400 meters. They were taking the top two to run the open 400, but the top six were able to go as the 4x4 team."

Once you made that, how long did you have before you headed to the World Games?
"I came home on a Monday and I was back out on a Thursday. I came home, went to school Tuesday and Wednesday, then I left Thursday and was gone for 12 days. We were there for 12 days, but we only ran for two."

So, what do you do for the 10 days you aren't running?
"You eat, sleep and train."

"Basically, about everybody on the World team are already professional athletes, so they are used to being on the circuit. That's all they do, they travel. They get their body acclimated to the sleeping time and they train there."

Were you the only college athlete on the team?
"I was the only one but I was, basically, in the professional circuit as a collegian. And because I wasn't a professional athlete I couldn't accept money from anyone. I couldn't talk to agents because that is against the NCAA code."

When did you actually run the event?
"We ran Saturday and Sunday, then left Monday morning at 6 o'clock."

What was a typical day like for you while you were there?
"When I first got there my body was still on our time. And we were something like eight hours ahead, so I was sleeping during the day and up all night. I would be up from 6 in the afternoon until 5 o'clock in the morning. Then, I would go to sleep around 6:30, then get up at 8 and eat breakfast. We practiced around 10. The rest of the day I relaxed and chilled out with the team."

During the 10 days you still had to do your school work didn't you?
"I had my school work already done. I did have a five-page research paper to do. I had to study for two exams. That was about it. I got my paper done while I was over there and emailed it to my teacher."

The day before you actually ran were you nervous?
"No, that's the thing about it. Anytime I get on the track I don't get nervous anymore. I understand that The Lord has instilled a gift in me. So, anytime I touch the track I am showcasing the gift that I have been Blessed with. I don't get that sense of nervousness or a sense of fear. I just go out there and do what The Lord asks me to do."

So, if you aren't nervous the day before what are you feeling?
"The day before I ran I was watching tv all day. I called my dad and we talked. I called some friends and we talked. I just chilled. There wasn't anything to think about. When the times comes, the time is here."

Did you have any problems going to sleep the night before?
"No sir, I actually went to sleep at 10 o'clock and I was up at 5 (am). I woke up at five, but I didn't really have to be up until seven. I woke up and watched tv. And I thought that I was ready to run."

What were you like the few hours that morning before you ran your event?
"Before I get ready to run I am always laid back. I always want to keep my heart rate down. If I get excited or let my body get extremely hot my stomach gets weak. So I stay comfortable and relaxed. I got on the bus and went to sleep. I got to the track and I went to sleep. Then I warmed up and I laid back down."

How did you do in the prelims on Saturday?
"I ran a 45.6 (seconds 400 meters). That was the fastest coming into the final."

How did you think your 4x4 team would do in the event?
"I knew we had two guys in the final of the 400 (meters). And I knew we had my time. And we had another guy running on the relay team with us who had run a 45 seconds indoors also. That is where the excitement came into play. The next day I knew I was going to be on the final relay team. And I knew there were three other strong guys on the team with me. We were shooting for the (world) record. Because of that, I had to get my body and my mind ready. It's just like in practice. If I have to run a certain time I had to prepare my mind to get on the track and run that time. I can't just get on the track and do it."

How do you prepare your mind?
"Basically, it's just a mental thing. I zone everything and everybody around me out. It is kind of like I take my mind somewhere else and I take off."

But you must notice the other runners around you?
"I don't notice anybody. When I'm on the track it's just me even when I'm in a race. Nobody beside me, nobody behind me matters. That's why they say in track you never look behind you because nobody behind you matters. And don't look beside you because anybody beside you doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is you and the lane in front of you."

The race at the World Games has started, you are the third leg of the four legs on the relay team. What were you thinking during the race?
"When I got the stick I knew the race was over. The United States has the best athletes, especially the quarter milers, in the world. There is nobody in the world who can hang with the United States quarter milers. And we were leading by about 15 meters. (After) I got the baton I separated us by about 20 meters. When I got the stick I was running for the record. I was running against the clock. My main goal was to hand the baton in time so that Bershawn (Jackson) could handle the rest and break the record. Bershawn is the Olympic 400 hurdler. Everything was smooth when I handed it off to him."

After you handed the baton to him what did you do?
"We all sat down as a team and watched him and the clock. We watched the clock the whole race. It came down to that last 10 meters. It was 3:01, 3:02, then he dipped and the clock shifted to 3:03. We were all 'ah man' when that happened but we were grateful for the win."

You were hoping for the world record in the 4x4, the top time in the history of the world. You didn't wind up with that but you did wind up with the 4th best record in the history of the world. You must be pleased with that.
"Considering I'm 19-years-old and I'm in my first indoor world championship, I was pleased with that. My goal and endeavor was to set up everything on my calendar where I was doing everything in the Lord's timing. I'm coming in as a freshman and the 2010 World Games was presented to me.

"My main goal coming out of high school was to make the (United States) World team in 2010. I came in and did what I had to do and made the team. That is one goal that I can take off my list.

"Now, I'm shooting for the Mississippi State team to win the NCAA title. And if we don't win the NCAA title, at least I win the NCAA title in the 400. Those are my main goals right now."

What are your goals after that?
"In 2011 it's mainly to train to get better and stronger for 2012. In 2011 a lot of athletes are going to be training and conserving their body for (the Olympics in) 2012."

Your 2012 goal is to make the Olympics, right? In what events?
"Yes sir. In the 400. I want to be in the 400 (meters) individually and on the 4x4 team. The top four 400 runners make up the 4x4 team."

What is the possibility that you make the Olympic team?
"It's a good possibility. I ran the 5th fastest time in the world indoors. Of the fastest guys, the only two who have been running the quarter in the professional ranks are Jeremy Wariner and LaShawn Merritt. As for the up-and-coming quarter milers, it is looking to where I have a good shot to be one of them."

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

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