January 10, 2019 9:54:01 AM
STARKVILLE -- Chris Woods has a plan to help the Mississippi State track and field program develop a stronger finishing kick.
But the former MSU middle distance runner said the key to realizing that is not to have the end in mind every day. If you do that, Woods said, you won't be able to accomplish the daily goals that will help individuals and the teams hit their bigger marks.
That's the philosophy Woods has followed since Sept. 20, when MSU announced the resignation of track and field coach Steve Dudley. Woods was named interim coach that day after five seasons as a sprinters and relays coach for the MSU men and women. That's the mentality he wants all of his student-athletes to have this weekend when MSU travels to Birmingham, Alabama, to compete in two one-day meets to open the indoor season.
"I want to take full advantage of this opportunity," said Woods, who competed at MSU from 2005-08. Woods earned two All-America honors and four All-SEC awards. "This is an opportunity for the rest of the coaches on the staff to continue to move forward. There was a time I stepped back (following Dudley's resignation) and I evaluated myself and evaluated the other individuals on the staff and we came together and we started figuring out what things we did well, what weaknesses we felt we had to correct. I am a firm believe of the definition of insanity, that's doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We have been a top-10 team several times since I have been here as an assistant, and we're going to continue to be a top-10 team if we do the same things. My goal is to win a national championship, so obviously there is going to have to be some change that we will have to instill, and that we are currently instilling into the kids and into the program."
Woods said he is interested in taking over the head coach on a permanent basis, saying it would be a "dream come true." He said the challenge to raising MSU's profile in arguably the nation's toughest conference is "outworking" other coaches and programs. He said the Bulldogs have to embrace a "blue-collar mind-set" that is reflected in the fact the program never has had a top-10 recruiting class but it has continued to have success. Woods said he wants the coaches and the student-athletes to continue to pour that kind of effort into everything they do to help MSU reach the highest peak. He said he had that attitude when he competed.
"I wasn't the best athlete coming out of my neighborhood or coming out of my high school," Woods said, "but I stayed out of trouble and I never quit. I never backed off. If I had a goal, I was going to do whatever was necessary to achieve that goal. ... That's how I have been my whole life. I have a goal in mind for this season and the seasons to come. There won't be an obstacle that I cannot overcome or that we won't be able to overcome that's going to stop us from achieving those goals."
As an assistant, Woods has coached Bulldog athletes to 17 All-American selections and two Southeastern Conference championships. His student-athletes hold 40 times in the MSU record books. In 2018 alone, Woods' athletes put 15 new marks among the top five in MSU history.
Before coming to MSU, Woods served as head coach for the men's and women's cross country and track and field teams at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
Prior to his time at Claflin, Woods was the men's and women's long sprints, middle, and long distance coach at Abilene Christian.
MSU will open the indoor track and field season Friday at the Blazer Invitational in Birmingham, Alabama. It also will compete Saturday in the Vulcan Invitational, also at the Birmingham Crossplex. Woods said the majority of MSU competitors won't run in their primary events and will compete in secondary events.
On Tuesday, sophomore Anderson Peters was selected as one of 10 athletes on the men's preseason watch list for The Bowerman, collegiate track and field's highest honor.
Peters was a semifinalist for the award in 2018 and was MSU's first semifinalist.
As a freshman, Peters captured the NCAA javelin title in June with a meet-record toss of 82.82 meters (217 feet, 9 inches) on his third throw in Eugene, Oregon.
Last season, the women's team finished in the top 20 in the country. Woods feels the men's indoor team can climb into the top 20 or 25. He said strong efforts for both teams will catapult them into what he feels can be a promising outdoor season.
"We have a lot of returners and we have got a lot of young talent," Woods said. "This is as deep as we have ever been as far as talent, and we are pretty young with that talent."
MSU will rely on middle-distance runners Marco Arop and Dejon Devroe on the men's side. Arop and Devroe qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 800. Devroe, who finished second at the Southeastern Conference Championships, reached the finals. Arop also finished second as a freshman at the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Daniel Nixon finished third in 800 at the SEC meet.
On the women's side, Alon Lewis, Monica Mosley, and Riley White were part of the indoor 4x400 relay squad that posted the No. 3 mark in school history last year, while Lewis and Charlotte Cayton-Smith have been part of multiple top times in the distance medley relay.
Cayton-Smith also holds the No. 2 800 mark in school history. Mosley and Justice Sims rank fifth all-time in the 400 and 200, respectively.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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