Exciting Season Ahead By O’Neil A. Reid
(January 10, 2010): It is often said that when opportunity knocks, one should be ready to open the door. Dwight Mullings, the 23-year-old Jamaican quarter-miler, knows what it feels like not to be ready to let opportunity in. He believes his own negligence cost him the opportunity to book a spot on the Jamaican team to the 2009 Berlin World Championships. The prospect of his going seemed sure; after all, he would have gone into the Trials with the fastest time.
“It was my fault for letting my passport expire,” he said, noting that he should have done a better job “keeping up with things.” Dwight recalled that his passport had expired in March 2009. With the aim of expediting the process, in April he sent it to Jamaica for renewal with a former assistant coach, who then submitted the documents to the Passport Office there.
Dwight recalls that while he was waiting on the return of the passport, “things got crazy” in May 2009 when the Jamaican media reported that he ran 44.98 secs. at the US SEC (Southeastern Conference) Championships as well as his passport troubles that threatened his arrival for the Trials. As his worry grew, Dwight said he made several calls to the JAAA (Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association), leaving messages requesting their assistance in getting him to the Trials on June 27. But, he said, he never heard from the JAAA until June 25, two days before the Trials.
Today he’s still puzzled about why he finally got his passport in the mail late November 2009 without an explanation why the Office took so long to return it.
“I was ready; I was so ready for the Berlin World Championships,” he reflected. “I had a time trial just before the Jamaica Trials and I was ready. It hurts me to see Jamaica performed so poorly in the 400m and the 4x4 relay.”
Going forward, the former St. Jago High School student, who enjoys fishing, bowling and going to the mall, has accepted responsibility for what happened, has taken it as a learning experience and is positioning himself as a force to be reckoned with in the near future.
Played Soccer Initially
Born in St Elizabeth in south-west Jamaica, Dwight is the younger brother of Steve Mullings, 2008 Olympic 200m finalist and 4x100m gold medalist. While growing up in that rural parish, Dwight played right wing for his primary school soccer team until he was encouraged to run track.
“The soccer coach, who was also the track coach, wanted me to run track.” Initially, Dwight was not interest though; he didn’t even like track. But winning a sports day bet with the coach about beating the best runner got him interested.
“I officially started running track in 2003 when I went to St. Jago. I immediately started training for the 100m and 200m. My coach, Bert Cameron [1983 World 400m Champion and 1988 4x4 relay gold medalist for Jamaica] switched me to the 400m. I started to excel in the 400m. The next year, in 2004, Danny Hawthorne became the coach and switched me back to running the 100m and 200m. So I ran those events along with the 4x1 and 4x4 relays,” Dwight recalled.
After graduating high school, Dwight got a track scholarship to Essex County College (Essex) in New Jersey to train with Coach Michael Smart, who switched him from running the 100m and 200m back to running the 400m. “Coach Smart was very strict and training was very hard.” he recalls. “I have great respect for him.”
At Essex, Dwight was the 2007 Junior College Outdoors 400m champion (46.62 secs) and was second in the 200m (20.75w). At the 2007 Jamaica National Championship he ran a personal best of 46.12 in the 400m and at the 2008 NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) Indoor Championships, he earned silver in the 400m (48.41). The five-time All-American at Essex then took his exploits to Mississippi State University (MSU).
Life at MSU
Now in his final year at MSU, where he’s pursing a double major in Communications and Education, the athlete whose tastes in music range from reggae and calypso to hip-hop as in Lil Wayne and TI says, “The weather here is crazy, but
my school work is going good. The people here are so friendly [and] my coach, Steve Dudley, works me hard and tries to look out for what is best in me.”
He pointed out that in the past “we did not do Indoors here at MSU, so I had to run myself into shape by running lots of 100, 200, and 4x1 and 4x4 relays. For this coming season we will be competing Indoors, so I will definitely be in shape when the SEC and the NCAA Championships comes around.”
Dwight says his favorite event is the 200m but he always seems to end up running the 400m. He ran his first sub-45 seconds at the 2009 SEC Championships, clocking 44.98 secs. for a “disappointing” second. He then went on to win the 400m (45.66) at the NCAA Mid-East Region and capped his 2009 season with a 45.48 performance for 5th place at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
In addition to running the flat 400m, Dwight performed other duties of also running the rounds and finals of the 4x1 and 4x4 relays. He attributes his drastic improvement in 2009 to Steve Dudley, and gave him a resounding compliment when he said: “Coach Dudley knows how to train 400m runners.”
Plans for 2010
Dwight could hardly hold back his excitement when he talked about this upcoming season: “We have a great team and we are going to put MSU on the map,” he said. He will be joined by sophomore O’Neal Wilder (45.50), incoming freshman Daundre Barnaby (46.35), and Tavaris Tate (45.40). Wilder is the 2008 World Junior 400m bronze medalist and Tate, the 2009 Pan-Am Games 400m silver medalist. And when it comes to teamwork, Dudley’s words keep ringing in his head: “One heart, one heartbeat and we should all move in the same direction.”
Dwight and his teammates will be heavily featured in the upcoming 103rd Millrose Games to be held at Madison Square Garden January 29.
For the remainder of 2010, Dwight has itemized his plans as follows: to graduate from MSU with his degrees; to do well at the SEC Championship (Indoors and Outdoors); to go the NCAA (Indoors and Outdoors); to put MSU on the map before he leaves; and to represent Jamaica at the World Indoors and possible the Commonwealth Games, if his schedule allows it.
His focus, thereafter, will be to compete at the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics.
“I am very proud of what I am doing and that I am now proving myself,” he said. For a long time I have been known as Steve Mullings’ younger brother.” Now, Dwight is charting his own course and making a name for himself.
Inspired by the Berlin performances of Renny Quow (T&T) and Tabarie Henry (Virgin Islands), Dwight is positive that he can do equally well and sees a bright future for Jamaica’s 400m. “The country has a talented group of young guys,” he said. “With time, experience and the proper training we can be very good. I think we are just missing good 400m coaching.”
Photos courtesy of Dwight Mullings