Runner Marcus Mayes growing up at Missouri

Senior becoming team leader, finding success with Tigers after not having high school track coach
Saturday, April 21, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:05 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Marcus Mayes, center, practices about six times a week for the 800-meter run. He runs with other undergraduates as well as former Olympic runners.

The Tigers are Marcus Mayes’ first team.

Mayes competed for Charles Page High School in Sand Springs, Okla., but was the only consistent runner all four years. Mayes didn’t have a high school coach, either. Alvin Mayes, his father, coached him all four years.

“He (Alvin Mayes) didn’t have an influence on me getting into track,” Mayes said. “He said, ‘Well, if you want to run track, then you’re going to run track, and I’m going to coach you.’”

Mayes said that his father’s real expertise was basketball. Alvin Mayes was the high school player of the year in his small area of Texas. He later went on to a small Texas college.

“My family was a basketball family,” Marcus Mayes said. “My first love was basketball.”

Mayes said that he could have played basketball at a small college but decided to pursue his oppurtunities in track. He started track in eighth grade and slowly fell in love with the sport by his junior year of high school.

“At the end of the day, you’re the only person who controls what you do,” Mayes said.

He has used this mind-set to become one of the most successful athletes at Missouri. He is a three-time All-American, two-time Drake Relays champion, school record holder in the distance medley relay and nine-time All-Big 12 performer.

Coach Rick McGuire said that Mayes and his runningmate Jimmie Jones are crucial to the team.

“They define the heart of the team,” he said. “They’re great athletes and leaders.”

Although Mayes loves the individualism of track, he also knows that teammates can help.

“In practice, it helps to have people around,” Mayes said. “In races, it helps to have a teammate in the race.”

“You definitely want to beat your teammate,” he said. “Anytime that me and Jim face up, we think we’re going to finish 1-2.”

Mayes has become an expert at pushing Jones to success. The two 800-meter runners have been racing against each other since high school.

“In high school, we raced a few times at Juniors,” Mayes said. “That race my junior year was the first seeing or hearing about Jimmie Jones. I took third, he took fourth.”

Mayes and Jones have also raced against each other a few times at Missouri. The two competed last weekend in the Tom Bott’s invitational 800-meter race at Walton Stadium. Mayes won the race with a time of 1:51.41, edging Jones by a hundredth of a second. Mayes said that he used a strategy of running his fastest the last 300 meters of the race.

“Like last year, it wasn’t me taking off at the 300, it was Jimmie,” Mayes said.

Leadership is one of the qualities that Mayes has embodied since he has been a Tiger. Mayes is the captain of the team, and now that he is a senior, the whole team has begun to look up to him.

“I always try to lead by example,” he said. “The people that look up to you will follow your lead.”

“My freshman year, I dodged a few runs, and the weight room,” he said. “Freshmen will follow by example. It could just be going to the weight room.”

Mayes has also taken a more vocal role on the team, even though that may not be his specialty.

“Jimmie is more gregarious and outgoing,” McGuire said. “Marcus is more reserved.”

Mayes said that his role as a senior and captain has led to more athletes coming to talk to him. The conversations involve a variety of topics.

“They could come ask me, or I could bring it up,” he said. “It could be about track or academics. All of it is related to the University of Missouri.

“Just the atmosphere, the team atmosphere,” he said. “Just wearing Missouri on your chest.”

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