STARKVILLE — Brandon McBride had high hopes last year for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
After winning the national title in the 800 meters as a sophomore in 2014, the Mississippi State track and field athlete hoped to win another championship. He had a target on his back, though, and finished sixth.
McBride is anxious to regain his crown. He will get that chance Wednesday when he competes in the semifinals of the 800 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. If he records one of the top two times in his heat of six competitors, he will get a chance to win his second title Friday.
“It’s really been motivating me throughout this whole entire year,” McBride said. “I look back and I learned a lot from last year.”
McBride also will compete in the 4×400 relay with Vince Castillo, Alfred Larry, and Juston Waters. The team ran a time of 3 minutes, 4.01 seconds at the NCAA East Preliminaries last week in Jacksonville, Florida.
MSU coach Steve Dudley said McBride wasn’t prepared for the 40 mph headwinds he faced last season at the NCAA meet, which is why he isn’t convinced McBride had a “down season.” After McBride ran a personal best 1:44.63 at the Jace LaCoste Invitational on April 30 at MSU’s Mike Sanders Track Complex, many people said he was back. Dudley, though, asked, “Where did he go?”
McBride went through a different offseason workout program to prepare him to get back on top.
“Certain phases of training were significantly different, probably four to five more months of extra strength work,” Dudley said. “(It was) not strength work where he is in the weight room pounding out the weights. It was strength work of being able to hold a semi-fast pace over a longer period of time. In other words, not doing all out speed for a long period of time.
“He has not had a whole lot of speed compared to other years. It may look like he has because he is running fast. He is fresher, but he still has weeks and months to go until he is running even faster.”
McBride returned to prominence last week, running a 1:44.89 at the NCAA East Preliminaries to earn the region’s top seed.
A native of Windsor, the southernmost city in Ontario, Canada, McBride was excited about his new workout regiment and wanted to attack it. But he quickly learned he needed to ease into it to realize the dividends he wanted.
“It was a big step mentally and physically for me to be able to log the miles I needed to grow and put in the volume of every workout,” McBride said. “It was very tough, and it took a month or two to get used to it, but after that it just became routine. It really, really helped us in the long run.”
McBride compete in the 1,500 in a few meets — something he had never done — to increase his stamina. He only competed in the 4×400 relay in the indoor season earlier this year to stay fresh.
McBride hopes to represent Canada in the 2016 Summer Olympics in August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Olympic trials are next week.
“It is every athlete’s dream,” McBride said. “It is the highest stage an athlete can actually compete on. It means so much to me. It is always nice to compete for something that is bigger than yourself, whether it is Mississippi State or it is a whole nation.”
McBride would have loved to have repeated as national champion last year, but he feels he is better off as an athlete and a person after coming up short.
“I’m very thankful I was able to go through the hardship I did last year because it definitely molded me into the athlete I am now. It really, really has motivated me,” McBride said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.
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