STARKVILLE — Emanuel Mayers invested the time in the fall.
The hours training spent in September and October blended into more hours on the track in December and January.
The goal was to build a base that could help him reach the highest level of Division I track and field.
Mayers realized that goal May 29-30 at the Mideast Regional Championships, and today he plans to begin to build on that success.
Mayers and his Mississippi State men”s and women”s track and field teammates will open competition today at the NCAA Outdoor Championships at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville, Ark.
“I have worked on my mental focus since the first day of practice,” Mayers said. “I have been ready to run and ready to listen to what coach has to say and I have tried to do the best I can. It has played a role right now and has showed the younger kids how practice relates to a meet.”
Mayers, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, will compete at 6:45 p.m. today in the first round of the 400-meter hurdles.
LaQuinta Aaron and Marrissa Harris (heptathlon), Wendy Coleman and Priscilla Gaines (long jump), John Bailey, Trey Charles, D”Angelo Cherry, Justin Christian, Dwight Mullings, and DeLandus O”Neal (4×100 and 4×400 relays) also will compete.
Mayers will see action in both relays, while Bailey and Mullings will compete in the 400 and Cherry will compete in the 100.
The MSU men”s team moved up to No. 13 in the national rankings following its school-best fifth-place performance out of 94 teams at the Mideast Regional Championships.
Mayers earned one of the men”s team”s three firsts at the meet by winning the 400 hurdles with a Cardinal Park and personal-best time of 50.30 seconds. His time is second all-time in school history.
Mayers said he didn”t set a goal for himself at the start of the season. He believes he is where he should be in a season where injuries and seconds and tenths of second determine champions.
Mayers finished fourth in the event (50.84) at the Southeastern Conference Championships and has remained focused and healthy through a long season that has been building toward this week.
Mayers credits his coaches for helping him refine his technique and develop a better rhythm to get his steps down in what is one of the sport”s most grueling races.
MSU track and field coach Al Schmidt said Mayers” mind-set has allowed him to be in position to peak at the right time.
“He has to be so tough when it comes to the relays and the individual events and he has to plan the way he races,” Schmidt said. “He pretty well led the team in the strength work (in the fall). He was like a demon. He has become almost demonic in the way he approaches training. That is the way you have to be.”
Schmidt said Mayers broke his opponents mentally clearing the final hurdle of the event. He said Mayers” desire will carry him through the nationals and will push him to have a chance to record a time under 50 seconds, which Schmidt said would likely secure All-America honors.
Mayers isn”t thinking about those accolades. He said he is confident about his chances and feels he is in top shape for what could be three days of top-notch competition.
“I am just going to run as best I can,” Mayers said. “Hopefully I can look up at the clock and surprise myself (in the finals of 400 hurdles).”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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