February 5, 2010 10:02:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- With a core group of All-Americans, the Mississippi State men''s track team is all about exposure these days.
After a nationally televised 4x400-meter relay win (3 minutes, 19.44 seconds) at the
Millrose Games on Jan. 29, the Bulldogs made a statement for the upcoming Southeastern Conference season.
With a potential Top 10 team and six All-Americans, though, MSU coach Al Schmidt is thinking on a grander scale.
Schmidt knows a lot hinges on the health of top performers like sprinters Dwight Mullings, Deangelo Cherry, Starkville native Tavaris Tate, and hurdler/sprinter Emanuel Mayers, but with the way the indoor season has started the veteran MSU coach knows this season is about seizing the opportunity to be great.
He pointed to the Madison Square Garden-hosted Millrose Games as an example of gaining exposure.
"I really believe we''ve got a Top 10 team with the men," Schmidt said. "When you''re on television and have the opportunity to put Mississippi State out there and give people a chance to see us, it''s a great opportunity. To go (New York) and win is pretty important and impressive. It''s a world-famous event."
The performance of the 4x400 relay team, which includes Tate, who ran the anchor leg, Mayers at leadoff, Mullings, and substitute Alex Richter has been part of a solid indoor start for MSU. That same relay squad took second at the Kentucky Invitational.
Mullings is a two-time All-American who also runs the open 400 and 4x100 relay, while Mayers earned All-America status in the 400 hurdles last season.
With next weekend''s Tyson Invite in Arkansas and the SEC Championships to follow before the team even thinks about outdoors, Schmidt is keen to see everyone stay healthy and to pick their spots in preparing for the league title meet and the NCAA Championships.
"You''re one injury away from falling out of that top 10, but coaching is a verb and not just a noun," Schmidt said. "All of our assistants do a good job protecting the kids; we pick and choose where we put a lot of stress on them. The Penn Relays and SEC Championships are good examples of that.
"With track athletes, it all depends on how many meets you run. You''ve got to be selective."
Next week''s Tyson Invite is a crucial meet heading into the SEC Championships on Feb. 26-28.
"Again, it''s another good chance and one of those meets that''s close to the Texas Indoors," Schmidt said. "It gives the kids a chance to line up against the best teams in the country. Most of the SEC will be there, too."
There, Schmidt expects his women''s team to build off last week''s showing at the Indiana Relays.
Keisha Wallace won the long jump at 18 feet, 1 1/2 inches, while Crystal Wilson won the 200 (24.78). Wilson also finished second in the 400 (55.72).
The women''s 4x400-meter relay team of Jody-Ann Muir, Taneisha Baker, Brittany Covington, and Wilson finished second with a school-record time of 3:43.59.
"I think our sprint crew was upgraded quite a bit with our recruiting class," Schmidt said. "We''ve got some returners in Laquinta Aaron, whose been a reliable scorer and a national qualifier in the heptathlon, and Wendy Copeland was a national runner-up in the long jump. I expect a top-20 finish next weekend."
While MSU''s teams have high expectations, Schmidt is also excited about the major recruiting tool he''s used so far and he''ll use in the future: a facilities upgrade.
A complete redesign of the track surface is set to break ground by the end of the month and to be finished by August. Schmidt said it will be the second largest surface area in the country, comparable to the track venues at the University of Oregon and Auburn University.
"It''s a huge undertaking, and we''re happy (MSU Director of Athletics) Greg Byrne, (Senior Associate AD) Duncan McKenzie, and everybody is giving us a facility we helped design," Schmidt said. "We will have one of the top three in the conference, and I''m really pleased."
MSU men''s golf readying youth
Looking to build on a solid fall season, Clay Homan and the men''s golf team are one week away from opening their second season.
They''ll do it with three traveling spots up for grabs.
With freshmen Robi Calvesbert and Brad Mason considered locks for two of the spots Homan is anxious to see the competition between the rest of the squad produce three more starters.
"It''s something we''re still trying to figure out, but we''ve got six guys for five spots who''ve really separated themselves," Homan said. "Most of our guys that started in the fall teed it up for the very first time, but I think they came along well. Will we be where want to be come Feb. 13? No, but this team has a lot of potential and we will get there."
Homan praised the fall play of freshman Mike Genovese, who finished fifth in his first tournament, and sophomore Lee Heaton, who closed the second round at LSU with a 67. But he admitted the rainy fall and winter months have slowed progression.
"We haven''t been able to prepare for our first tourney like we''ve wanted to," Homan said. "We have to play the ball, lift, clean and place. The ball is plugging and burying. We''re going to try and go down to the coast this weekend and play 27 holes."
Greenan prepping for home opener
With a 1-1 spring record, Daryl Greenan is pleased with the steps the women''s tennis team has made.
The first-year MSU coach, who replaced longtime coach Tracy Lane in the fall, came to MSU after spending five seasons at the University of Iowa.
A former head coach at Mississippi University for Women, Greenan said he is happy to be back in the South, and is ready to tackle a rebuilding project at his new school.
"The team won one SEC match last year. On average over the last decade we had won an average of two or three SEC matches a year," Greenan said. "We really have to grind it out and recruit some strong players."
Greenan credited assistant coach Max Fomine with making the transition smooth and evaluating players'' strengths and weaknesses.
MSU opened the season with a 5-2 win at the College of Charleston before falling
7-0 at the University of Miami.
MSU will face Georgia State on Feb. 12 in its home opener.
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