June 26, 2009
Don''t tell Starkville sprinter Tavaris Tate that he only has to finish in the top five of the 400-meter dash to advance to the Junior Pan-American Games in Trindad next month.
Tate won''t be satisfied unless he comes out on top when he competes in the event Saturday and Sunday at the United States Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
The premliminaries will be Saturday and the finals Sunday.
Tate''s latest victory in the 400 came last Saturday at the Niki Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., when he edged rival Clayton Parros with a time of 46.17 seconds to Parros'' 46.34.
This weekend Tate and Parros will go head-to-head again, but not until the finals. It is being billed as "Tate-Parros Part 4."
"We''re going to see each other again this week," Tate said. "I''m just keeping everything in mind, staying focused and get ready to run a good race."
Running good races is exactly what Tate has done all summer.
Tate improved his own No. 1 national ranking in the 400 by running a 45.48 at the 34th Great Southwest Classic in Albuquerque, N.M., on June 6.
He also won the 400 at the Atlanta-DeKalb International Prep Classic with a time of 46.20 on May 30.
"I''ve been undefeated all year (in the 400) so I''m looking to keep that record," Tate said. "God has guided me every step of the way."
As Tate continues to win events and set impressive times, people have been taking notice.
United States Track and Field Official Ron Tillman has been one of those that has been amazed.
"With the times he has put up, he is the real deal and he''s only 5-foot-7," Tillman said.
Jim Elias of United States Track and Field said that Tate''s reputation has followed him to Oregon.
"Tavaris is rated No. 1 400-meter runner in our Junior Nationals and his best time is significantly better than No. 2," Elias said.
ESPN the Magazine has compared Tate to 2008 Olympic gold medalist Lashawn Merritt.
Russell Tate, Tavaris'' father, said that Tate has had the chance to rub shoulders with Merritt and other prominent track athletes during his time on the road this summer and calls it a good experience.
The Tates appreciate the support felt from the community while they''ve been on the road and are asking that it continues.
"We thank the community for praying for us during these times of travel and while we are competing," Russell said.
Portions of the USA Track and Field Championships are scheduled to be televised by ESPN from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday and by NBC from 3-5 p.m. Sunday.
Anyone interested in Tate can keep track on how he is doing by visiting usatf.org.