Last fall, D'Angelo Cherry was unsure if his track and field career at Mississippi State was over or not.
He trained anyway and got a big surprise before he went home for the holidays.
"He was under the impression in the fall when he was training, that his career at Mississippi State was over with," MSU track and field coach Steve Dudley said in a press conference on Tuesday. "I wanted to see how hard he was going to train, but yet not know whether he was going to have a season or not. It was his best fall training.
"Before he went home for the holidays, I told him you've got indoor season left if you want it."
The fifth-year senior Cherry, who had not qualified with the relay team in the fall outdoor championship, didn't know what to think or say when he was given the opportunity to run in the spring.
"It was a very surreal moment," Cherry said. "I am still at a lost for words when I think about it. During the offseason, I was going to train hard and see what happens. When he gave me the impression that there was another season left, I trained pretty hard."
It was a good thing Dudley let him compete in the indoor season this spring.
Cherry took advantage of his opportunity and last weekend saw it pay off. He ran a time of 6.49 seconds in the 60-meter dash to capture the national title at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, N.M.
"I was nervous at first," Cherry said. "I just trusted in my training and I knew if I executed in my race, I would come out with a pretty decent time. I wasn't expecting to run 6.49, but I knew if I went through the phases of my race like I always do, then I would have a pretty good time."
His time is a 2013 collegiate best and a personal record for Cherry. His time is the sixth fastest in collegiate history and ranks him fourth on the all-time collegiate performer list.
His time is also the fastest collegiate performance in any event since Tennessee's Leonard Scott clocked a 6.48 at the 2001 SEC Championships.
Dudley, who was on the recruiting in nearby Texas, was not there for Cherry's run. Instead, he was given play-by-play over the phone.
"I had been recruiting in Lubbock, Texas, for the last couple of days for the Junior College National Championships," Dudley said. "I drove over Albuquerque, N.M. I was there that morning, warmed him up for his semifinal round and got to hang out with him a little bit after that. I had a flight that was leaving, so I was actually at the airport on the phone with my wife while the finals were going on."
Dudley and Cherry had seen this coming for a while. They had been working on some different things in practice and trying to get his fastest time out of him. Working on the last 30 meters has been the key.
"He's got a God-given ability when it comes to acceleration in the first half of the race," Dudley said. "The first 30 meters he's already very, very good at. It's the latter part of his races that he has to train a lot and work on a lot."
Cherry will compete in his last event as a Bulldog this weekend. MSU will be traveling to the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
"It means everything to me," Cherry said. "I've been here for so long. This is my home. For it to really be over this time, it means everything to me."