Missouri is heading into unfamiliar territory. Most of the team, that is.
The Tigers will compete in the Big 12 Conference Outdoor Championships today through Saturday in Norman, Okla. It is Missouri’s first trip to Norman since 1992.
Missouri freshman Marcus Mayes is more excited than the others to make the trip, because the meet is a homecoming of sorts for him.
Mayes, of Sand Springs, Okla., which is about 100 miles from Norman, has a chance at his second All-Big 12 performance this weekend in the 800-meter run. He earned All-Big 12 honors in the 800 in the indoor season with a sixth-place finish.
Mayes excited by chance for more honors
His teammates are quick to notice his excitement.
“This guy’s been talking about how he’s going to run a 1:46 in his back yard all week,” said Neville Miller, a Missouri junior.
Mayes said that it would mean a lot to have another All-Big 12 finish because this time he will have a lot of friends and family to cheer him on.
“I’m just looking to have fun and run good,” he said. “Going back home, that’s why I’m excited.”
Mayes enjoyed plenty of success before he came to Missouri. He was the 2003 AAU junior national champion in the 800 and the USATF junior national champion in the 800 and 1,500.
Despite all his success, Mayes claims his first love is basketball. He said his basketball experience helps him on the track, though.
“When you play basketball, you approach that with a strategy, as well as with track,” he said. “When you approach a race, you have to have a strategy.”
Mayes still learning strategy
As for strategy, Mayes said he is figuring out the best one for him.
“I’m still learning,” he said. “College is way different from high school. Mainly, I just go with my coaches. Coach (Jared) Wilmes has given me a lot of input on what to do, and I’m just implementing that in my running and trying to learn and get better.”
Other freshmen have a chance at success as well. Tipper O’Brien is one of them. He nearly earned All-Big 12 honors in the 1,000 in the indoor season; he missed the honors by about four seconds. This weekend he will try for an all-conference performance in the 1,500.
O’Brien’s road to track success is not the normal one. He is a sophomore, but has freshman standing in track because he did not go out for the team his first year. He played baseball in high school but said he quit when he lost his love for the game. He then picked up track and had success, but said he thought his running days were over after he graduated. That changed after his first year of college.
“I got in shape and ran a race this summer and actually beat a couple guys who run at different universities,” he said. “I decided if I can beat them, I might give it another go.”
O'Brien hopes to impress, earn all-conference honors
O’Brien said he wants to capitalize on his decision to run again at this weekend’s meet.
“I’d really like to get the regional mark, which is about 3:48, and I really want to be all-conference,” he said.
The meet starts today with the hammer throw, decathlon, heptathlon and 10,000. The day holds one of Missouri’s best chances for a Big 12 title. Holly Scherder, a senior hammer thrower, set the school record in the event April 2 at 196 feet, 4 ½ inches.