Photo by Brent Beerends / MT Athletic Communications
The outdoor track season is upon us and coach Dean Hayes has some high expectations for his team. During the indoor season, Middle Tennessee was one of the best teams, top to bottom in the conference. A few runners even found success in the NCAA Nationals.
As the team gears up to return to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville this weekend, Hayes isn’t afraid to talk about how the team performed the last time they were there. Tennessee has upgraded their facilities and Hayes describes the track as a “fast track.”
On that track, the women’s mile relay team broke the school record. Sampson Laari performed well there last time, winning the 1500 meter race.
Laari has been a force all year long, placing third in the mile run at the NCAA National meet. Coach Hayes expects Laari to continue to have a great season outdoors.
“He’s one of the smartest runners we’ve ever had,” Hayes said. “He never gets in trouble and just does a great job.”
Where greatness lies, it’s also expected. And Hayes knows the mile relay squad will perform well there once again this Saturday.
“The mile relay for the women will be a breakout event for us,” Hayes said, “We knew they were going to be good, but being outdoors will make a difference for them.”
Coach Hayes knows that season will be a marathon. Rest will be important if they want to keep pace throughout the season.
“Every time we go to a meet, we are going against the Southeastern Conference or the Atlantic Coastal Conference and we don’t have the depth they have,” Hayes said.
Coach Hayes tries to keep the season in perspective and goals clearly defined. “The goal is to win the conference. The second goal is always to get into the NCAA [finals].”
The path to the NCAA nationals is different from as the sport translates over to outdoors. Runners will have to qualify for the regional finals before moving on. There are more events in outdoors compared to indoors. The hammer throw and javelin throw are two of the events added.
“The biggest change for outdoors is getting in the top 48 so you can get in the regional finals. They take 12 from each region,” Hayes said. “24 runners go the NCAA finals. A few more than inside, but a few more teams compete outdoors so it evens out.”
Coach Hayes pinned this weekend as one that the team needs to perform at a high level. Portions of the event will be streamed on the WatchESPN app or ESPN3. Events will be streamed on Friday from 3 to 7 pm, and on Saturday 12 to 4 pm.
Follow MTSU Track-and-Field beat writer Jonathan Clark (@) on Twitter for more coverage.