May 11, 2011 7:05:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- No Tavaris Tate. No problem.
That''s the approach Mississippi State track coach Steve Dudley is taking into the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which begin Thursday in Athens, Ga.
Tate injured his hamstring last week in the preliminaries at the Penn Relays and didn''t compete in the finals of the 400-meter dash or the 4x400 relay.
The injury will keep him out of action at SECs, Dudley said Tuesday.
The sophomore All-American has battled hamstring issues since the beginning of the season, and Dudley didn''t indicate if Tate would compete at NCAA regionals or at the national championships.
Tate accounted for 12.5 points in MSU''s seventh-place finish at SECs last season.
"I''m not gonna run anybody that''s hurt," Dudley said. "I guess it''s the hamstring, something in that leg. Doesn''t really matter, does it?
"We got a team of 40 some odd kids, so we have other people we can plug in. We made the finals at Penn Relays in the 4x4, got second in our finals without Tavaris on there. We have people that can fill the void."
Tate isn''t the only Bulldog who''ll miss the SECs. Sprinter/hurdler Emanuel Mayers also is out after having foot surgery last month.
Mayers, an All-American, scored 14.5 points at last year''s SEC meet.
Both runners were key members of last year''s 4x400 team that finished second at NCAAs and earned All-America honors.
Though Tate is unavailable, Garren Hendricks, Randy Patterson, and Daundre Barnaby make up a deep sprint group that has shined. Hendricks and Patterson were on the 4x400 team that took second at Penn Relays, while Barnaby is ranked 10th in the 400 (46.60 seconds) in the SEC.
The No. 22 Bulldogs still have D''Angelo Cherry, who is ranked third in the 100 (10.15 seconds) in the SEC, and All-American O''Neal Wilder, who will run the 400, 4x400, and has a chance to run the 4x100.
"I''m just not a big proponent of saying, ''Well, we''re not gonna do good or we''re not gonna do well because we didn''t have this person,'' " Dudley said. "That''s bull malarkey. We''re gonna go compete as hard as we can with the people that get on the bus."
Dudley admits the losses of Tate and Mayers will affect their teammates'' aspirations of being the nation''s top-ranked relay team.
"I know it''s tough on them to lose some bullets," Dudley said.
However, Dudley is confident his runners have a new chip on their shoulder and will embrace the underdog role they had last season when they pulled off headline performances at the Penn Relays, where they won three relay events, and at the NCAAs.
"I think being the underdog brings a little bit more character to us because you don''t have this little cockiness and sense you can beat everybody out there," Wilder said. "The four guys that''s on our relay, me, James Harris, Daundre, and probably Randy Patterson at SECs, I think, are gonna have the best heart out of anybody in our conference.
"We probably are gonna shock some people and might start looking at us like, this will be the team from last year."
Also aiding in Dudley''s confidence is the strength of MSU''s jumpers, James Harris and Marcus Jackson and thrower Ed Wesela.
Jackson won the high jump at Penn Relays with a personal-record 7-foot, 1-inch mark.
Wesela won the shot put at Penn Relays with a toss of 56-4. He''s fourth in the SEC entering the weekend.
Jackson is ranked fifth and Harris, who will compete in the high jump, 400, 4x400, and 4x100, is second in the high jump.
"I''m still working on it," said Jackson, who set the Mississippi high school state record with a 7-2 1/2 inch jump last season. "(I''m) still trying to reach that goal of 7-6. As the days go on, I get better and hopefully no injuries."