EUGENE, Ore. – The story of how middle distance runner Brandon McBride made it from his Canadian home in Windsor, Ontario, to the Deep South destination of Starkville, Miss., is a simple one.
His mother gave it her approval.
It turned out to be one of the best recruiting visits Mississippi State coach Steve Dudley ever made.
“Coach Dudley flew up to see me and my family,’’ McBride recalled of Dudley’s 2013 visit. “My family loved him and really trusted him. That was a big deal for my mom and dad. They want to trust the coach. My mom was sold after the visit. My mom, she’s a very strong woman. She asked him a variety of things, academic-based questions. What happens if he gets hurt? What’s going to happen? What about racial tension in the South? He really didn’t miss a beat. My parents (Marquita and Bernard) were impressed with that.’’
A home visit is one thing. Actually living in an environment so foreign to someone from eastern Canada was another. It took McBride a while to adjust.
“At first I really struggled because of the cultural differences,’’ he said. “I have a good group of friends here, which makes me feel at home. It helps to have other international kids here.’’
McBride said food was the biggest adjustment he had to make in coming to Mississippi State.
“Everything is fried,’’ he said. “Coming from Canada, we ate fried food once every six months. I packed on a solid eight pounds the first four-five months and then I did my best to get those eight pounds off. It was the fried food. I didn’t know the difference. Being young, I was just eating everything in the cafeteria. Now I understand you have to make smart choices in the cafeteria.’’
On the track, McBride is finishing off an outstanding career for Mississippi State. He won an NCAA championship at 800 meters as a sophomore in 2014 and seems poised to do so again next week at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, June 8-11, at Hayward Field.
It will be his last competition for the Bulldogs.
Earlier this season, in a home meet on April 30, McBride lowered his personal best to a nifty 1 minute, 44.63 seconds. That’s the No. 3 time in history by a collegian and the fastest time ever run by a collegian in the month of April. According to Track & Field News, only the great Jim Ryun in 1966 (1:44.3) and George Mason’s Julius Achon in 1996 (1:44.55) ever run faster as college students.
(It should be noted that Villanova’s John Marshall ran 1:43.92 at the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials, Tennessee’s Jose Parilla clocked 1:43.97 at the ’92 Trials and Bowling Green’s Dave Wottle ran 1:44.3 at the ’72 Trials – times that occurred beyond what’s considered the breadth of the college season.)
McBride’s PR on April 30 came as something of a surprise, considering the circumstances and the fact he had been concentrating on strength training rather than speed work.
“I wouldn’t say I was feeling fantastic. I was feeling OK,’’ he said of that day. “It was right in the middle of exams for us. I had a heavy training week. My teammate rabbited me and came through (400 meters) at 51 flat. We came through 600 in 1:17. That really set us up for a good race. We discussed it before the race. He knew exactly what he was supposed to do. He took me through 450 meters and trailed off. It allowed me to do my thing.’’
Props to Alfred Larry for setting up McBride so nicely.
Heading into NCAAs, McBride’s 1:44.63 is the ninth-fastest time in the world for 2016 and the best by far by a Canadian; countryman Robert Heppenstall ran 1:46.92 in April. All McBride needs to do to secure his place on the Canadian Olympic team is finish in the top three at his country’s trials in Edmonton in July.
“I’m very excited,’’ he said. “The volume (in training) is still decently high right now. My legs haven’t been feeling great in these races. I’m excited for when they do feel great. … I’m just getting into my season. There’s so much waiting for me.’’
McBride, who recently graduated with a degree in business administration, wants to close out his college career in style at the NCAA Championships in TrackTown USA and win another individual title for the Bulldogs.
“I just want to go out with a bang,’’ he said. “Mississippi State has given me so much. I want to represent them to the best of my ability. If I do that, I’ll be happy regardless.’’
Asked about the young man he flew to Canada to see four years ago, Dudley said, “We are so proud of Brandon and everything he’s accomplished. Words can’t describe how proud I am of everything Brandon has accomplished during his time here at MSU. Not only is he a tremendous athlete, but also an excellent student. He’s a team leader on and off the track.’’
At Mississippi State, head coach Dudley is also McBride’s event coach for the middle distances. The relationship has been a good one, according to the pupil.
“I’ve really enjoyed it,’’ McBride said. “He brings a certain energy to practice. You can feed off his energy because he’s so excited. It’s been a great experience.’’