Mississippi State sprinter Tavaris Tate of Starkville will participate in front of a home crowd Saturday at the Jace Lacoste Invitational on the MSU campus. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The track world had better watch out. Tavaris Tate is back.
After battling through a tough sophomore season physically and mentally at Mississippi State, Tate believes he is back to running like he did at Starkville High School.
"Coming off last year, I had some things to prepare mentally for," Tate said. "I was coming into my junior year and understanding it's a big year for me. I had Olympic Trials and Indoor National Trials. Basically I had to do a total transformation from last year to this year.
"The Lord has restored my body as well as rejuvenated everything within me through those gates and onto the track. I'm blessed and thankful to have the ability to do what I'm doing. Last year, I was confused and didn't know what was going on and how I was going to run. This year the Lord has rekindled everything that's been inside me so I'm back feeling the way I'm supposed to feel on the track."
Tate established the Southeastern Conference's and nation's fastest time in the 400-meter dash at 45.45 last weekend at the LSU Invitational.
That accomplishment has led to Tate being honored as the SEC Male Runner of the Week.
Tate learned of the recognition in a text message from his father Russell Thursday morning.
"That's big for me," Tavaris said. "I was awarded that my freshman year so to know that I'm back running the way I once was, it makes me feel real proud of myself because I'm back on the same track I'm supposed to be on. That was a great feeling for me."
Tate anchors the 4x400 meter relay team for the Bulldogs, who are ranked first in the SEC and second in the nation with a time of 3:03.12. He also runs on the 4x100 meter squad that ranks fifth in the nation with a time of 39.17 at the Texas Relays.
Russell, who also trains Tavaris, said they have gotten back to the old workouts that made Tavaris successful as a Yellowjacket.
The bond between father and son is strong and Russell is glad to see that Tavaris has pushed through the adversity of last year.
"He was pretty nicked up, but he still pressed on," Russell said. "We regrouped and trusted God. The Lord has healed his body and he's believing that. We're pressing on through, beyond that and looking forward to a blessed and beautiful year."
It will be a big year for Tavaris with the SEC Championships coming up in Baton Rouge, La., May 10-13, the NCAA Preliminaries in Jacksonville, Fla., May 24-26, the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, June 6-9, and the Olympic Trials set for July.
With all of those big events coming up, Russell said they are trying to keep everything in perspective.
"We're trusting God that all of that will be successful in every endeavor that's placed before us," Russell said.
Tavaris said his first two seasons at MSU seem like a blur, but he's trying to remain focused on the future.
The next meet for the Bulldogs takes place this weekend at home with the Jace Lacoste Invitational.
It's an event Tavaris looks forward to having in Starkville so family, friends and even ex-teammates can come watch him run.
Tavaris is hoping some of the people that didn't get to come to the SEC-Big 10 Challenge meet in March can come to watch this weekend.
It's expected that Corey Jordan and Nick Shoemaker, who ran with Tate on the 4x400 team at SHS, will make an appearance.
"It will be fun to see my old friends again and to have competition as well," Tavaris said. "I have a lot of supporters coming and hopefully I can get my grandmother to come out. I've been wanting her to see me run since last year.
"I hope we can get coach (former SHS track coach Cleveland) Hudson out too because he was a big inspiration and like always he's been like a father to me. If he can come out, that would be good."
The Lacoste Invitational begins today with the women's hammer throw at 2 p.m., while the men's and women's 5000-meter runs start at 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday, the men's and women's shot put picks up the event at 11:30 a.m. Running events take place at 1:45 p.m. with the women's 4x100 meter relay and continue through the men's 4x400 meter relay at 5:30 p.m.
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