Byhalia's Bougard commits to competing with Bulldogs
Mississippi State track and field athlete Erica Bougard, right, said coach Steve Thomas has been an important part of her development. (Photo by Madeleine Takahashi, For Starkville Daily News)
Erica Bougard is quickly becoming a household name in the track and field world.
As a sophomore last season, Bougard ended the indoor season as the 2013 NCAA Indoor Pentathlon National champion and just recently as a junior, she was crowned 2014 Southeastern Conference champion in the same event.
While the successes are coming quickly, it was not too long ago that Bougard wasn't even sure if she wanted to continue her track and field career on the collegiate level.
â€śWhen we recruited her out of high school, she was a big-time basketball player as well,â€ť Mississippi State head coach Steve Dudley said. â€śIf you asked her what her first love was, it was basketball. Even though she had a good freshman year, she still mentally was a basketball lover. Inside of her was a conflict with whether she wanted to be a track athlete or basketball player. I really think she had to make a decision at the end of that year whether to stay here at Mississippi State or go somewhere else and play basketball.â€ť
Bougardâ€™s decision got a bit easier that summer when she travelled to the United States Junior Championships where she qualified for the Junior World Championship team. Getting to compete for her country sparked something inside the athlete. Her passion was ignited and from the moment she returned back to MSU, Dudley said something was different about Bougard.
â€śThat summer was the point it clicked in her that I am good at this and this is something I can be really good at and I can be on team USA,â€ť Dudley said. â€śShe always tried hard at practice, but you can tell when a kid is mentally and physically invested. She was always 100 percent physically, but not mentally prior to that. When she put that USA jersey on, she was like, 'OK, I am 100 percent.'â€ť
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