Former Starkville High School track athlete Tavaris Tate now runs for Mississippi State. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Tavaris Tate is a good teammate.
The former Starkville High School track athlete, who has now taken his talents to Mississippi State, said it's important to give a strong effort for everyone on a team.
The emphasis on that will be a major focus as the Bulldogs participate in the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, this week.
Tate is motivated by the fact this will be the final MSU meet for teammate, fellow sprinter and senior Emmanuel Mayers.
"We know a lot of the help comes from Manny," Tate said. "We understand that every time we touch the track, we have to run for each other. We might not meet the expectations of others, but as long as we meet the expectations of ourselves when we touch the track, that's all that matters to us."
One of the goals for the Bulldogs is to support each other on the track.
Mayers said teammates try to "uplift" each other which helps them "step up and rise to the occasion."
MSU track coach Steve Dudley doesn't want any of his athletes to be on an island emotionally.
"When somebody gets down, you've got to pick that one up," Dudley said. "We don't want anyone to stay down."
In a sport that depends on individual skill, the relays do introduce the team aspect.
Tate participates in the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams for the Bulldogs at the NCAAs.
Even though he did not qualify for any individual sprints, Tate is committed to helping teammates finish as high as possible in relays.
"Things happen throughout the season, but being able to complete a 4x400 and make it to nationals is basically a big accomplishment," Tate said. "I won't hang my head or anything (about not qualifying individually). It's just a motivational factor for me because I'll have Olympic Trials in a couple of weeks.
"I have to do what I have to do for my team on the relays as if I had to do it in the open events. My main focus going into nationals is leave it out there on the track because that's all that matters to me and the team to give it all I have."
As the lead leg of MSU's fifth-ranked 4x400 relay, Tate has already enjoyed some good moments. He helped the 4x400 team to the Southeastern Conference outdoor championship in 2011 and anchored the quartet to victory at the SEC/Big 10 Challenge this season.
Tate has experienced his share of injuries and suffered a foot sprain during the Jace Lacoste Invitational back in April.
Going into the NCAAs, Tate won't try to focus on any lingering pain because he wants to give his best effort for the team.
"The Lord has blessed me and I have dull moments in my foot once in a while, but I try to stay mentally prepared," Tate said. "It's not about the physical because everybody hurts. I've got to do this for my team even if I'm hurt, because we're one heartbeat."
Tate once again will take the support of his hometown to the big stage and that thought gives him a lift no matter where he's competing.
"I understand this is home and where my support comes from," Tate said. "To understand I have a lot of people backing me in everything I do, that's what gives me the drive and motivation to go further than what I do. I really appreciate everybody here at home supporting me and Mississippi State as well."
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