Former Northside High track and field standout Tay Sears admits his success as a freshman at Western Kentucky has taken him by surprise.
After capping off the indoor season last winter by earning Sun Belt Conference Indoor Freshman of the Year honors, Sears has qualified for a pair of NCAA Championships.
Sears and his WKU teammates will compete in the finals of two relays Saturday afternoon -- the 4x100 meter and 4x400 -- at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
"When I got to college, I knew it would be a lot different," Sears said Friday afternoon in a phone conversation. "I didn't train as much when I was in high school. I had never lifted weights before, now I do.
"Also, I take much better care of my body."
While Sears may be surprised by his success, his high school coach, Joe Sanders is not.
"He has done exactly what I expected him to do," Sanders said. "He had a plan, and he has worked hard.
"This is not a surprise at all."
Sears, Emmanuel Dasor, Elvyonn Bailey and Ja'Karyus Redwine will race in the 4x100 final. That race is slated for 5 p.m. They qualified on Wednesday with a time of 39.18 seconds. Sears runs the second leg in the 4x100.
In the semifinals, there were three heats with the top two finishers qualifying for the finals. The next two best times also qualified.
WKU won its heat, but finished with the fifth best time. Texas A&M was No. 1 in 38.60, followed by Florida (38.77), LSU (38.85) and USC (39.08). Iowa was sixth (39.19), followed by Arizona State (39.26 and Alabama (39.36).
"We performed really well," Sears said. "We were not predicted to make the final, but we did it as a unit. But I feel like we can do a little better."
Sears, Dasor and Bailey will be joined by Chris Chamness for the 4x400, in which Sears runs the third leg. That race is scheduled for 6:40 p.m.
The 4x400 semifinals were held on Thursday. WKU finished third in the first heat, so it had to wait until the last two heats were run to find out if its time of 3 minutes, 3.94 seconds would be good enough to qualify.
Texas A&M won Heat 1 in 3:00.76, followed by Nebraska in 3:03.61. Florida won Heat 2 in 3:04.33, and Baylor was second in 3:05.64. LSU won Heat 3 in 3:03.43, followed by Oregon in 3:03.80.
Western Kentucky and Arkansas had the next best times and also advanced to Saturday's final.
"We did all right," Sears said. "We can run a lot better."
The NCAA track and field finals will be televised on ESPNU beginning at 5 p.m.