Dempsey improves in first year at Mississippi College

Dalton Dempsey
Staff Writer

Butch Ard was glad he took a chance on a Starkville Academy athlete named Dalton Dempsey.

The Mississippi College track coach wasn't sure about what Dempsey could do for his program after seeing him top the time 51.3 in the 400-meter run in high school.

Dempsey proved to Ard and the rest of the Choctaws what he could do during the spring.

After seeing him run the 51.3 with the Volunteers, Ard watched Dempsey improve that time in the 400 to 47.8.

Dempsey finished fourth in the 400 meters at the Gulf South Conference Championships in April. He was chosen Mississippi College Wright & Ferguson Athlete of the Week for that performance.

"We brought him in and he just takes off," Ard said. "He really didn't start well. He was still in the 50-51 range, then all of a sudden, it clicked. He went 48, 48, 47 and 47 in his last four races. I told him that you are ready and when it clicks, it's going to go and it did.

"We found out quick that he had a heart as big as Texas. He absolutely wanted to win. Every time he raced, he wanted to win."

Along with his individual success, Dempsey joined up with fellow freshman Rakeem Wilson and formed a very good 4x400 meter relay team with Matthew Gibson and Luke Hodnett.

The team finished 20th in the nation in the 4x400 relay and were all chosen All-Region by The United States Track and Field and Cross Country Association.

"We really came together," Dempsey said. "Our time at the beginning of the year was decent, but wasn't anything outstanding. We just really cut down on our time and it was a lot of fun to be a part of it."

Ard said Dempsey ran the last leg of the 4x400 meter relay and became a force for the Choctaws at the end of races.

"I wouldn't have had anyone else do that because he came from behind and brought us to victory in three of those races," Ard said. "It was just incredible the fight that he has in those races.

"He has meant pretty much everything. He is everything you would want in an athlete. He's just going to get better."
Dempsey said his first year at Mississippi College went "definitely better" than he thought it would.
As much as he impressed himself with his own improvement, Dempsey liked how the other members of the team progressed also.
"It was beautiful each week seeing the guys go hard and cut down on their times," Dempsey said.