Is Tavaris Tate the next LaShawn Merritt

Updated: October 16, 2008, 3:27 PM ET
ESPNRISE.com

At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Jeremy Wariner was considered the heavy favorite to defend his gold medal in the 400 meters. But LaShawn Merritt didn't care what all the pundits were saying. Instead, he went out and not only won the gold medal but dominated in the process. Merritt clocked a personal- best time of 43.75 to shock the world  as well as Wariner, who garnered the silver in 44.74. Merritt later teamed with Wariner to help the U.S. take gold in the 4x400 relay. Merritt's double-gold performance may have been surprising to some, but it was no shock to those who've followed his career since he starred in high school at Woodrow Wilson (Portsmouth, Va.).

As a senior in 2004, he posted the nation's top 400-meter time (45.25) and captured state titles in the 100, 200 and 400. Like Merritt at the Olympics, Starkville (Starkville, Miss.) senior Tavaris Tate surprised many last season by posting the nation's top nonsenior and No. 2 overall time in the 400 with a 46.39 in an AAU regional meet.

Tate v. Merritt
TAVARIS TATELASHAWN MERRITT
HIGH SCHOOLSTARKVILLE (MISS.)WOODROW WILSON (VA.)
CLASS20092004
TOP EVENTS400 & 4x400400 & 4x400
HT/WT5-10/1706-2/182
BEST HS 400*46.3945.25
CAREER HIGHLIGHTNO. 1 JUNIOR TIME IN '08OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST
COLLEGEUNDECIDEDEAST CAROLINA
* TATE'S JUNIOR SEASON, MERRITT'S SENIOR SEASON


Earlier in the year, Tate picked up his first individual state titles with victories in the 400 (46.41) and 200 (21.53) as Starkville won the Class 5A team state championship. Tate also guided the 4x400 relay to a first-place finish for the second straight year and was selected to the USA TODAY All-USA team. "He's one of those dedicated, hard workers," says Starkville head coach Cleveland Hudson. "It paid off for him last year." Sounds a lot like LaShawn Merritt.

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