In the 400-meter run, it seems Mullings has already passed the baton to Tate in a figurative sense.
Mullings, a Jamaican-born senior for Mississippi State, won the 400 title at last year’s NCAA Mideast Regional, when Tate was still a senior at Starkville High School. Tate came to MSU highly touted and has quickly established himself as a national contender, ranking second in the country in the 400.
Mullings is ranked seventh. The one time the teammates squared off in a 400 final this year, at Auburn’s War Eagle Invitational, Tate finished first with a time of 45.21 seconds, while Mullings came in second.
There could be a rematch this weekend in the University of Tennessee, where the SEC Championships are being held through Sunday.
“I’m going out to do what I came to do, and that’s beat him and beat everybody else,” Tate said.
Those words were not spoken with a sneer, but in a matter-of-fact tone. Mullings and Tate might not hang out off the track, but they have a high mutual respect for one another.
“I know what he can do, so it boosts my confidence every day,” Mullings said.
Mullings is actually a big reason Tate chose MSU over schools like LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina. Tate wanted a strong runner like Mullings to work with and look up to, and he described their relationship as a “big brother, little brother type thing.”
Tate added, “Over the last couple of months, we’ve established a relationship as teammates and also competitors.”
More than sprinters
- How MSU’s men, ranked 15th in the country, fare in the relays and individual sprints will play a large role in how they finish as a team. But depth will be key, and coach Al Schmidt likes the way his team is set up.
There’s decathlete Martin Lee, hurdler Emanuel Mayers and high jumper Josh Tucker of Tupelo.
“That’s the reason that we quite frankly right now would have a better chance of winning the national championship than possibly winning the SEC championship,” Schmidt said. “There are 21 events on both sides. And you have to have enough depth that you can score. But we’ve got other areas.”
The NCAA regionals are set for May 27-29, and the NCAA championships will be held June 9-12 in Eugene, Ore.
Copeland leads women
- For all the chatter about MSU’s men, the women hope to make some noise, too. The Lady Bulldogs have a lot of freshmen, but senior long jumper Wendy Copeland of Tupelo likes the make-up.
“I think over the years it’s gotten a lot stronger,” Copeland said. “Now we have a pretty good group of freshmen, and they don’t even compete like they’re freshmen. They compete like they’re juniors or seniors.”
Copeland has jumped only twice this year because of a reaggravated hamstring injury. She finished fifth at the Texas Relays and sixth at the Penn Relays.
Her goal this postseason is to finish in the top three at the SECs and top eight at the NCAAs, which would earn her All-American status.
“I think I’m capable of doing that,” Copeland said.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571