STARKVILLE — Mississippi State junior sprinter Dwight Mullings knows his coaches believe in him.
Each time Mullings runs a race, associate track coach Steve Dudley tells him he can do a little bit better.
Mullings will try to deliver on the faith Dudley and coach Al Schmidt have in him Friday and Saturday when he runs the 400 meters at the NCAA Mideast Regional in Louisville, Ky.
“I have a coach that is confident I can do it,” Mullings said. “In the prelims (of the Southeastern Conference championships), I ran a 45.59 (seconds). After that, I went by my coach and he said tomorrow is going to be a new day. He believed I could do better, so I know I can.”
Mullings, who is from Jamaica, rewarded Dudley for believing in him by taking second in the SEC with a personal-best 44.98 in the 400 finals.
Dudley has watched Mullings improve since the beginning of the season after he joined the Bulldogs from Essex County (New Jersey) College.
After getting better in April and May, Dudley hopes Mullings has saved his best for this weekend so he can qualify for nationals in June.
“We”re very excited about the progression of Dwight,” Dudley said. “You want to get better at every four-week cycle.”
Dudley wouldn”t have had a problem if Mullings had run a 44.98 in March, but he would”ve been a little concerned.
If Mullings had gone from a 46 in junior college to a 44.98 early in the season, it might have been too much too soon.
Dudley believes Jamel Ashley”s MSU record time of 44.75 in the 400 might be in jeopardy if everything falls in line for Mullings.
Dudley said Mullings was passive in the first half of the 400 finals. With a more aggressive effort, Dudley thinks Mullings can do even better.
“I do think in the right situation, environmental-wise and competition-wise, that he can run faster than 44.98,” Dudley said. “He knows that. It”s just a matter of being confident in himself and knowing he is not going to struggle at the end of a race. He”ll have a good a chance as anybody at bringing home an NCAA championship in the 400. That”s our goal.”
Mullings also will run on the 4×100 and 4×400 relays. Mullings, Justin Christian, John Bailey, and D”Angelo Cherry will be on the 4×100 team, while Mullings, Bailey, Emmanuel Mayers, and Trevarus Christian will run the 4×400. Delandus O”Neal is an alternate for the 4×400.
Bailey also competes in the 400, while Christian and Cherry run the 100, Mayers races in the 400 hurdles and Matthew Cameron participates in the 1,500.
“We”ve got a pretty good team right now,” Mullings said. “We all have confidence in each other.”
In the USTFCCCA Division I rankings, Mullings is third and Bailey eighth in the 400, while Cherry is eighth in the 100, Mayers is 16th in the 400 hurdles, and the 4×100 relay team is eighth.
As a team, the Bulldogs are 23rd in the nation.
“Last year, we were sixth on the men”s side in the region,” Schmidt said. “With (the current ranking), we want to better that when it comes to nationals. If everything goes to form, we should be able to do that.”