Darius Mitchell narrowly missed a trip to state last season as a junior. This year, the UTEP signee is heading to state not only in his primary event, the 200-meter dash, but also in the 4x400-meter relay. Now, after his close call last season, Mitchell is anxious to make good on his first and last shots at state gold this weekend.
How long have you been running track competitively?
Since I was in the fourth grade — about eight years.
Did you have a primary sport before that or was this always the one?
I actually played baseball for a little bit — well, I played every sport, but when I got into track I actually liked it more. I was a little nervous for it.
What about track appealed to you?
It’s an individual sport. You can do whatever you want by yourself.
When did the 200-meter dash become your bread and butter?
I’d say going into freshman year. Because when I started track I actually started running long distance, so I was in the 800 when I started. Then my freshman year, my AAU coach was like, “You got strong, let’s try to put you in the 200.” So, I actually like it.
What about the 200 do you like the most?
The curve. My mom says, “You’re curve is great.” Every time I run it (she says), “You’re curve is so great.” I only have to finish the straight. The straight needs a little bit of work. But throughout these last four years, I actually worked on a complete race. I’m trying to get where I can finish a race. But at state, I think I can do it.
What was it like to win the AAU Nationals in Houston?
My coach was like, “Well, I have a goal: for you to go undefeated all year in the 200.” So, the first three meets, I won the 200 at A&M. Then we turned around, we ran in Houston for the high school invitational, won that one. He was like, “Well, you’ve got one more meet for indoors: indoor nationals. Just win me this, I’ll be happy.” One of my friends is going to Baylor. (My coach said), “That’s your competition. Just beat him and I’ll be happy.” I ran my fastest time in indoor. I was pretty happy I won. It was great.
Did that kind of give you momentum coming into outdoor season?
It gave me a lot of confidence coming into school. Because if I can go undefeated in indoor, racing the same people I’m racing in high school, if I can keep going. . . . And I haven’t lost yet.
What drew you to UTEP?
When I first got scouted by them, which was late December. At the time, they were 11th in the nation. And they have a great squad. They’re mixed between sophomores through seniors. The coach down there already told me I’m going to be on the 4x400 relay. … When we went to (Texas) Relays, they actually ran the 4x4. They did a pretty good time. And he was like, “You may be our second leg next year.”
He emailed me and said I have to have a good fall season, and I might be on there. But I’m looking forward to it.
You said you originally liked it because it was individual, but now you’ve got a relay team at state and at UTEP you might run the relay.
That changed. Because last year at Texas Relays, it was a little iffy. I was kind of disappointed with the team effort. But you can’t fault anybody. It’s just a team effort. But this year, they’ve grown on me. I’m actually proud of them.
What’s it like running with your brother, D’undre?
That’s a handful. I’ve got to love my brother. He does a lot. Believe it or not, he’s actually the leader of our 4x4. When we get in tight situations he always puts us back in the race. He does a great job of third leg.
How does it feel to be going to state in your bread and butter and then to be running with your teammates?
It’s amazing. It’s very amazing. To barely miss out last year at regionals and to go this year, and actually go in with the fastest times and be ranked, it’s a pretty good feeling. And to do it to where your last year, you take a group of underclassmen to the state meet for the first time, I feel pretty good.