The resurgent OU Track and Field team will travel to Des Moines, Iowa this weekend to participate in the NCAA Regional. The Sooner men shocked everyone and won the Big 12 Championships two weekends ago in Austin, Texas. Leading the way was Jenks, Okla. native Marcus Pugh, who scored 20 points for the Sooners in winning the 100-meter title, placing second in the 200-meter and running on the Sooners 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams that finished fourth and sixth respectively.
Pugh won the title of the Big 12's Fastest Man, beating Texas football star Jamaal Charles in a time of 10.30 to Charles' 10.32.
Pugh was the state sprint champion in the 100 and 200-meter dash at Jenks High School and could've gone to any of the great tracks programs in the country. However, he grew up a Sooner fan and always wanted to run at OU. But when he came out of high school, the OU Track and Field program was not in good shape. Howsever, Pugh loved the Sooners and wanted to help turn the program into a winner. So despite the fact that he had offers from better programs at the time, he followed through with his lifelong dream and signed with the Sooners.
Pugh has done what he promised: he has helped the OU Track and Field program become a winner. And before he left for the NCAA Regional, he slowed down just enough to talk to OUInsider.com.
JH: How does it feel to be the fast man in the Big 12 Conference?
MP: "It feels great. It has taken two years to bring the title back to the University of Oklahoma. It is great now to have the title with my name on it."
JH: When you first arrived at OU there were big expectations for you, but you struggled early in your career. People started to doubt your ability and now you can call all those people back and tell them you are Big 12 Indoor 60-meter Champion and the Big 12 Outdoor 100-meter Champion.
MP: "Yeah, it is fun to stare down the critics and look at what I have accomplished this year. We took time this summer to get dedicated, get focused and get strong so that we could achieve everything that we have achieved this year. All of this is so great, I am still high from all the excitement."
JH: How much did it help you individually to know that your team had a chance to win the team title?
MP: "Going into an event knowing that you are contenders as a team puts a lot of pressure on you, but that goes all the way back to my high school days at Jenks knowing that we are the top dogs. You have to go in with a target on your back and peel them off one-by-one each day and each minute. That is exactly what we did. We went in and earned a lot of respect from each team, each athlete and each coach in the Big 12 Conference."
JH: Take us through the race.
MP: "My coach (Dana Boone) and I were nervous because in the 4x100 my hamstring was bothering me. She told me it doesn't matter and told me to just give it all I had and to leave it all on the track. So, I went in and got a little treatment and got ready. When I got done with my warm-up, my hamstring felt 10 times better. My coach told me to bring one back home.
"I got into the blocks and I was a little nervous because I had Jamaal (Charles) next to me. He won it last year and I knew how strong he is because of football. Everybody knows how strong he is. We got out of the blocks and I see that he is in catching range and I know that once we stand up tall and start to get into our top end speed, that I was going to be able to pull off the victory. I wanted to pull it off a little earlier than I did, but getting him at the line just made it that much more intense for the crowd and for OU. Anything that you can do on this team to help win is great, so catching Jamaal and getting first place and getting 10 points was big."
JH: At what point in the race did you feel you were going to win it?
MP: "It was at about the 70-meter mark. With 30-meters to go I knew I had the race won. I knew that it was still going to be a fight to the end, but I knew I had him because I felt I had more left in my tank than he did."
JH: Do you feel really fast with the NCAAs cominmg up?
MP: "I wouldn't say that I feel really fast, but I would say I feel really healthy. I got back into training and got a little more treatment. I am ready to go and ready to take on the next challenge."
JH: Talk about the influence that your coach, Dana Boone, has had on your career?
MP: "Coach Boone has done a lot for me. She took on a big responsibility when she picked us (men) up right after the indoor season. Her load has doubled and for her to be able to work with us is great. Everybody on our team has run PRs under her coaching, and I honestly feel it has been a blessing going from winning the indoor title with injuries then to becoming healthy, stronger and faster. Working with Coach Boone, I feel I can take my running ability even further than we had expected."
JH: You are a part of both relay teams, so how good are the relay teams at OU?
MP: "Both relay teams ran well. I am very happy with how we did because we don't get a chance to practice as much as a lot of other schools do. So our handoffs are not as crisp as these other schools, but as long as we get into the medal round we are in contention every single time."
JH: What do you think your chances are in the 100-meters at Nationals?
MP: "Going up against the best in the nation is going to be fun. I know if I run my race it is going to be hard to beat me. It doesn't matter what the time is on the track, I am just going to go in there with a swagger like Coach Boone and I have talked about. I have to be confident about everything that we are going to put on the track. I can talk as long as I can back it up and there is nothing wrong with it. We are Oklahoma and we are going to stand tall. That is how we carry ourselves every day at practice and in competition."
JH: How does it feel to be a part of a team that broke a 29-year old curse?
MP: "It was an emotional ride and I was so high after we got done running the 4x400. I was so excited and then all of a sudden everything hit me when we were over there having our team meeting. When Coach (Martin) Smith started to talk to us about us winning the championship, I started to cry. I was just overwhelmed with feelings because it was something that I had dreamed about and mentioned on my signing day that I wanted to bring the winning tradition in track and field back to Oklahoma. I said then that I wanted to be a part of a Big 12 team title. After saying that and the way my career started, I never thought I would see it happened."
JH: You could have gone just about anywhere in the country, but you signed with OU to help the program get going in the right direction. Talk about that decision.
MP: "Oh, yes. My first reason why I signed with Oklahoma was because of the tradition and prestige that used to be behind the program. The first person that I met in track and field at Oklahoma was J.D. Martin. I met him at the John Jacobs meet. On that day, I almost broke the record in the 200-meter. That was when he told me that I need to be a part of the program and that I needed to build the program back up. Ever since that day my senior year, I put more dedication and pride in being that person that could build this program back up, along with DaBryan Blanton and Kevin Bookout."
JH: What events will you participate in at the NCAA Regional?
MP: "I will be running the 100 and 200 meter dash, the 4x100 relay and I am an alternate in the 4x400 meter relay."