Muir Hitting Stride In Time For NCAAs

Perhaps because she's a freshman, Jody-Ann Muir has not learned to over-analyze everything just yet. Or maybe as a Jamaican native she doesn't see any need to offer lots of technical talk as her American media-warped peers might. No, the Mississippi State rookie keeps it pretty basic when explaining her approach to her craft.

"I train hard, so I expect to run fast!" Muir shrugs. And based on her debut Bulldog season…why not?

Muir has absolutely gotten off to a fast start at Mississippi State, and her rookie run will conclude this week at the NCAA Championships. Muir is part of the seven-woman party representing State in Eugene June 9-12 at the national meet, entered in a pair of events. She qualified individually for the 400 meter dash, and is part of the 4x400 meter relay squad as well.

The solo dash preliminaries go off on day-one at the University or Oregon facility, scheduled for 5:15 PT; and the finals are Friday at 6:30. Muir, along with Keisha Wallace, Crystal Wilson, and Taneisha Baker will line up Thursday at 7:05 for the 4x4 semifinals. And if they reach the finals they get to run on national television Saturday in the next-to-last race of the whole meet with a 11:40am scheduled start.

The meet's scheduling, and putting dashes and relays on different days, certainly should help Muir… as well as Wilson who is also qualified in the 400. The pair are ranked #14 and #22 in the nation respectively. So Muir can spend these days leading up to the nationals thinking foremost about that give-it-all single lap of the track Wednesday.

"The 400 is my main event," Muir admits. "With the 4x4 it's a team thing and when everybody comes together we'll run a good time. The open 400, that's what I'm focused on."

This isn't a case of selfishness, by the way. This is just good basic track philosophy where when the gun sounds it's every one for their own self. Fortunately in Muir's case, though, there is some obvious carry-over to the different events.

"I mean, the relay is just like the 400. So whatever mindset I have for the 400 is the same mindset I have for the 4x4. The only thing difference is you have a baton, an object in going around. But it's the same distance." By the way, based on season trends Muir expects to get the baton for the third leg…maybe. "It might change. It's based on strategy, you try different people running different legs so it is what works best. The third leg is just getting the baton around and running your race." Which with any luck by lap-three will mean Muir getting to run with the leaders and not in a frenzied pack.

Even then the Bulldog quartet seems capable of handling traffic. At the SEC Championships a month ago they set a school record of 3:36.43 on the tight-turns Knoxville track to take fourth place. And two weeks ago they clocked a 3:36.54 at the NCAA East Regional to come in 9th while tuning-up for the national meet. The latest national polls rank this State foursome #20 going to Eugene.

Muir herself carries even higher expectations based on a strong—not to mention fast—surge here at the end of her freshman season. She has set a MSU class record with a 52.75, recorded at the SEC meet when she took third place. That time was .04 better than her qualifying pace on a wet track, and she has run the second-best 400 dash in MSU history. In a year or two the record of 51.26 by Falilatu Ogunkoya, set in 1989, might even be in reach.

Muir stayed in-stride with a 52.79 at the Regionals, not risking any breakdowns before lining up beside the nation's best 400 women. Wait, she competes in the SEC; Muir already has measured herself against the national elite. In fact that race at Knoxville affirmed what Muir figured before arriving in Starkville.

"Maybe at the SECs, that 400 race when I really said, OK. Yes, I do feel I belong. Because I've made it, I've done good in the regional, so I do belong there. And we'll see it in the nationals." She'll certainly see familiar faces there, figuring her top challenges will come from the ace 400 sprinters of Auburn and Arkansas.

Then again Muir never really doubted she could handle herself on college courses. (Not to mention in college courses, as a biological sciences major.) A product of St. Catherine, Jamaica, she was well-seasoned in competition and not intimidated by stepping up in grade. "It's more competition, you have to go out hard from the start, you don't relax. You just have to put your mind to it and believe in yourself…and go get it! You don't have to be overconfident, cocky or whatever. But it is a good boost to be confident in yourself."

"I knew it was going to be hard because everybody has experience. At first I didn't know what to expect from these other athletes but as I've raced and progressed I've become more confident in myself. I knew I could do it from the start."

Which is why Muir believes she can do it on college track's biggest stage. Not just herself, either, but her comrades in the 4x400; as well as LaQuinta Aaron in the heptathlon, and Wendy Copeland in the long jump. Pressure? Naahh, this is opportunity for every Bulldog involved.

"It's not really pressure. We do have something to run for and the coach (Al Schmidt) is proud of us. So that gives us motivation to know somebody believes in us and we believe in ourselves. He's proud and we're proud."

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