Long-time and fresh faces alike make it to State Games track and field

·3 min read

Jun. 27—Noel Mann, of Petal, was back in Meridian Saturday for his second State Games of Mississippi track and field event.

His first one was last year, and it didn't go too well.

"It was the first race, the 100-meter race, and about two thirds of the way through Ray (Gildea) was behind me, and he said I stubbed my foot, and it catapulted me on my face," Mann recalled. "It knocked me out for a short time, and he was kind enough to let me have his second-place medal."

Mann suffered a torn hamstring as a result of the fall, which took four months from which to recover, and that was followed by gall bladder surgery during the week of Christmas. Following being cleared by his surgeon in mid-January to resume physical activity, Mann got right back to running, determined to make it back to State Games this summer.

He did so, competing in the 400-, 800-, 1,500- and 3,000-meter runs and the 4X400-meter relay. Even though he wasn't going to do the 100-meter dash again, Mann said there was no hesitation on his part to return to State Games.

"I have run the 5K at State Games three or four times, and I run the Senior Olympics every year," Mann said. "It felt good to be able to compete. I'll be 72 this year, and I teach chemistry at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, so I'm hoping to go to some of the national races this year."

Gildea, of Madison, ran in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, the 800- and 1,500-meter runs and the 4X400-meter relay and was a State Games athlete of the year in 2018. He has competed at the State Games track and field event 28 total times and said the deal he gets from State Games each year is too good for a runner like him to pass up.

"They let you do four without charging you any extra," Gildea said with a chuckle. "You can't ignore a bargain like that. Each event really requires a different set of muscles and a different set of skills, so running the 200 is not like running the 1,500."

Steven Redd, of Meridian, competed in every event but the 4X100-meter relay. Unlike Mann and Gildea, this was his first year competing in State Games' track and field meet, and he said the events were a good way to test the strength in his legs.

"I tore my ACL two years ago, and it's my first time competing after that and COVID," Redd said. "It was great. I was nervous because I didn't know how my knee was going to hold up, and just being around everyone is great, even with the nervousness and everything."

While he enjoys competing, Gildea said the most important thing for him is making sure other runners feel at home when running.

"My job is just to encourage other people to do this," Gildea said. "If you don't have any other skills and the hand-eye coordination isn't there, you can always get out here with us and do the running events."

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