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MSU track and field shines in SEC-Big Ten Challenge

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State''s first home track meet in four years Saturday ended with the Southeastern Conference falling to the Big Ten on the men''s and women''s sides.  

 

The results didn''t take away from the excitement of MSU runners and field athletes, especially the ones who earned victories at the SEC/Big Ten Challenge at the renovated Carl Maddox Track Facility. 

 

Senior hurdler Emanuel Mayers, who earned All-America honors last season, won the 400-meter hurdles at 52.82 seconds, just a hundreth of a second faster than the University of Mississippi''s Lee Moore. He also finished fourth in the 100 hurdles (14.39), and accounted for 15 of the SEC''s points.  

 

"I came out here more relaxed just because I was feeding off the energy from my friends and family," Mayers said. "The atmosphere from all the friends and family out here was very good. It carried over to the track coming home." 

 

Totals for the SEC and Big Ten weren''t available at press time.  

 

Haley Greenwell capped a solid day for MSU by winning the 3,000 with a time of 9 minutes, 56.38 seconds, which was 14 seconds better than the next finisher.  

 

Though she didn''t set a personal record, she was happy to get her first win at home and to build on teammate Chloe Phillips'' second-place finish in the 1,500 (4:33.74).  

 

"I loved hearing those cowbells on that last lap knowing I had so many friends and family here supporting me," Greenwell said. "I didn''t PR today and it was windy, but it was a really fun race.  

 

"I came through the mile at 5:07, so it let me know I was coming in a little too slow. But my coach didn''t want me to take the lead in the beginning because of the wind. (I was told to) just let others take the wind and pace. I remember coach at the 200-mark saying, ''OK, now you can go.'' That''s when I said OK. I went and no one went with me." 

 

MSU''s sprinters didn''t enjoy the day they had hoped for entering the meet, but they closed the show with an exclamation point. 

 

The 4x400 relay team built a one-second lead through James Harris'' first leg before O''Neal Wilder added another second to the advantage on the second leg. By the time anchor leg Tavaris Tate got the stick from Daundre Barnaby, he was on cruise control for MSU''s 3:05.24 clip and first-place finish.  

 

"I just shook my head when (Harris) gave the stick off because I knew we was gonna hold the lead," Tate said. "The only thing we was running for was time, and that''s basically the only thing we''ve been running for. Even though we didn''t have Emanuel on a leg, we still made it work, and that shows the talent and gift we have as a unit.  

 

"We should drop even lower in our time because 3:05 starting off this early in the season is outstanding." 

 

Tate added a third-place finish in the 200 at 20.87, a tenth of a second of Auburn''s Harry Adams, who won the race. 

 

Tate''s premier event, the open 400, ended with a hint of disappointment as he finished second (46.61) behind Ohio State''s Thomas Murdaugh (46.41).  

 

In the 400, he faced childhood friend and Ole Miss rival Danté Oliver, who took fifth at 47.71. 

 

Oliver, a Columbus High graduate, ran the first leg of Ole Miss'' 4x100 team and helped the Rebels take second at 40.31. Oliver ran the third leg of the 4x400 and helped Ole Miss to a third-place finish at 3:11.41.  

 

Racing against Tate for the first time since the 2009 Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state meet, Oliver said he might have focused a little too hard on beating his friend. 

 

"The coaches were telling me I''m normally a little bit smoother," Oliver said. "I was a little more tense this race. I had Tavaris right in front of me, looking at him the whole time and I sort of threw myself off. Also, the 400 started earlier than it was supposed to, and me and Tavaris were warming up inside when we realized we had to get to the track. I think that threw both of us off a little bit, but it was still a great race." 

 

Tate, who is nursing a Grade 1 hamstring tear, competed in three events Saturday. While an open 400 title would have been nice, he thinks his and the sprinters'' results are quality given the wind and his fitness level. 

 

"Coming into the meet I felt real confident and very good in my body, but after the 400 I realized I''m not 100 percent," Tate said. "Coming out and running today was basically a big test for me.  

 

"Running my 200, I felt very good. Even though we ran into the wind, I ran against some strong competition and matched up very well." 

 

MSU returns to the track Friday for its second straight home meet, the Bulldog Twilight Invitational.

 

 

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