STARKVILLE — When Brandon McBride was 16-years-old, he realized he was really fast.
“I went to my first international competition in Lilly, France and I got spanked pretty good,” McBride said. “After a couple of months of training, I got back out there and whooped everybody in my next competition. That was when I realized the ability God had given me and the chance that I had.”
This was also about the same time that McBride, now a Mississippi State University sophomore, realized his track and field recruiting process was in good hands with mother Marquita calling the shots.
“My mom is pretty ruthless when it comes to her kids,” McBride said. “My parents (Marquita and Bernard McBride) were always very protective of me. When they were recruiting me, my mom told a lot of coaches no after just a few words. She would tell them to not call again.
“Finally when (MSU) coach (Steve) Dudley flew up there, my mom drilled him with a bunch of questions. He answered all of them. After that, my mother shook his hand and told him I was going there.”
While Dudley may have closed the deal on the recruiting trail, his speedster is closing the deal on the track. McBride recently captured the 800m NCAA outdoors national championship at Eugene, Oregon.
In March, McBride won the 800m NCAA indoors national championship at Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“These are the two stars,” said McBride, when asked where the track and field national championship trophies would rank in the home trophy case. “So much hard work goes into winning a national championship. It is really quite humbling when you get to this point.”
McBride won the outdoors title with a time of 1 minute, 46.26 seconds, the second-fastest of his career. The mark was just good enough to edge fellow Southeastern Conference rival Ryan Schnulle of Florida (1:46.29). McBride had entered the competition ranked No. 1 nationally and fresh off an SEC championship.
“The funny thing is I really didn’t see Ryan coming up on me,” McBride said. “I was focusing on the JumboTron and watching both Arkansas (Patrick Rono) and Middle Tennessee State (Eliud Rotto) closing in. Then, all of a sudden it was like Ryan was coming up and basically tapping me on the back. From the 600 to 700m mark, I really had a good kick. I had worked too hard to let this one get away.”
McBride, who turned 20 two days after winning the second championship, has run his best times on the west coast with his personal-best of 1:45.35 coming earlier this season at Mt. Sac in Walnut, California.
“It is just totally different when you train in the heat and humidity that we have around here,” McBride said. “Then you run on the west coast, it is a totally different environment. A lot of guys from the southeast go out there and drop (personal bests) and they get asked ‘Where was this all year’?”
McBride still employs the same philosophy in each race. He said fast starts are vitally important, especially when you have competed against a set of regular competitors.
“I want to put the pace on them early,” McBride said. “Six of the eight guys (in the national finals) like to kick, so the job was to take the pop out of the kicker’s legs. It was a windy day and it is harder to lead on a windy day. So getting the lead was important. I try to start real fast and then on the second lap take a tad bit off the gas. They have to work hard then to catch me. When the fastest guys are on my heels again, I try to pull away. It’s a mind game but the main thing is you have to remember to run your race.”
What the casual observer may not know is the amount of time spent preparing for a race. In addition to the sheer physics of the event, McBride feels like his film study is vital.
“Honestly, I try to look back at everybody’s last race and really what they have been doing for the last three or four weeks,” McBride said. “It gives you a pretty good idea about how to attack. You study the styles and figure out the best way to beat those different styles.”
Then there is also pre-meet ritual of basically having what McBride calls “a breakdown.”
“It’s funny because what you see on the track is somebody who is calm and competitive,” McBride said.
“What you see before a meet is totally different. When I am in the call room getting ready to race, I have a melt down. Even though it looks like I never have anxiety, I have a lot of it before a race. Coach Dudley and (assistant) coach (Steve) Thomas have to put me back together mentally and emotionally. Then I have to block everything else out and go race. The most important thing is to make sure the competitors do not see me when I am like that. ”
McBride, a two-time track all-American as a freshman, also makes sure to say a prayer before each race.
“I don’t ask God to allow me to win,” McBride said. “I simply ask him to allow me to do my best. If my best is eighth, third or second in a race, then I am good with that. As long as I left everything on the track, I am happy.”
After winning a second championship, McBride was probably as happy as Dudley was the day he left the McBride home in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
“I knew Mississippi State was the right fit,” McBride said. “Coach Dudley was just different than anyone else. We have had a good relationship from the beginning. The way he handled the interview process to get me, I was impressed. I knew this would work.”
Meanwhile, the work continues as McBride beams when talking about the need to add a second shelf at home to hold the newest trophies. While two more years remain in Starkville, thoughts are already turning toward a professional career and a chance to represent Canada in the Olympics.
“Representing my country on the big stage would be a huge accomplishment,” McBride said. “It would be a great a chance to make a lot of people proud. Whenever I run a race, my No. 1 goal is to make a lot of people proud. From that standpoint, it has been a pretty good year.”
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.