The only thing left to do is race.
The Southern Miss track and field team has put in all the work it can to get to this moment – the finals of the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
The Golden Eagles are set to appear in four events on Friday night at Hayward Field:
In his fourth season as head coach of USM track and field, Jon Stuart said there’s not much left to say to his athletes before a finals event.
“I always keep it very short, to the point,” Stuart said. “We’ll go over a strategy or something well before the race. During the lead-up time or the day before the race, we won’t have to talk about it much. We kind of know what to do. We’ll talk about basketball or sports, or just anything else other than running. I’ll make fun of them or something like that just to keep everything loose. As long as I think they’re moving around and focused but not turning inward, that’s all I’m watching for.”
The one athlete Stuart never has to worry about is West. The junior sprinter has had a break-out season in his first year at Southern Miss.
West followed up his 200-meter gold at the Conference USA outdoors by qualifying for the NCAA outdoor finals. West ran the 100m in 10.10 seconds and the 200m in 20.53 seconds to become just one of two athletes to qualify for both events this year – the other being Florida State’s Andre Ewers.
“[West]’s just a competitor,” Stuart said. “He gets in the blocks and he’s ready to go every time. He doesn’t have any bad races…He’s not scared about the competition or the rankings of the other runners. He just gets in there and competes.”
Before West hits the starting blocks in the individual events, he’ll try to help the 4x100m relay team win its first national title in school history. The foursome took second in their heat with a time of 38.91 seconds to advance to USM’s first finals appearance in the 4x100 meters.
Junior John Warren looks to leap past his sixth place finish in the NCAA indoor triple jump with a strong performance in the outdoors at 7:40 CT. The 2018 Indoor All-American broke the school record and a meet record with a gold medal-winning jump of 16.41 meters at the C-USA Outdoor Championships.
It’s already been a memorable season for the Golden Eagle track and field club – with the school’s first C-USA women’s outdoor title and a men’s runner-up finish. Stuart and company are finally seeing the fruits of their labor, but hope to bring a couple more medals back to Hattiesburg.
“It’s good to see all the hard work we put in for the previous three plus years kind of pay off here at the end,” Stuart said. “We could see it coming…When I first started, you could almost say I could dream it. You just have to have the patience to see it through. That’s one of the things that I credit the staff with. We’ve been very patient with this group and done it the right way. You just can’t turn it around in one year, sometimes it takes a few years. The sense of satisfaction is definitely there.”