Y graduate trackster signs with Nik

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    By MARK D.STRINGHAM

    A BYU graduate student made the marketing division of Nike very happy this month.

    Former BYU track star Sean Maye became a true billboard March 8 when he helped the USA track team win the World Indoor Championships in Paris, France with Nike’s famous slogan “Just Do It” riding across his back.

    But what this 26-year-old graduate student doesn’t tell you is, Nike could alter that famous catch phrase just a little to fit his story.

    How about, “Just did it — finally.”

    Maye’s story at BYU began when Williard Hirschi, BYU’s men’s track coach, recruited him in 1992 from Merit Junior College in Oakland, Calif.

    Maye had already posted some impressive times in the 400-meter and half-mile events in his first two years at the collegiate level, and Hirschi knew his experience would help BYU immediately.

    “Just his presence on the team helps us. He had already performed on a level above our other 400-meter runners,” he said.

    Maye had some impressive highlights in a Cougar uniform. He won a conference championship in the 400-meters and was one of the quickest runners around.

    “I think he has the second best 400-meter time in BYU history,” Hirschi said. “He’s one of the best we’ve ever had.”

    The weird thing is Maye’s name is not synonymous with the BYU track program.

    “He was very effluent, with a lot of grace and ease of motion. He had excellent skills,” Hirschi recalled.

    It was that grace and ease which gave Maye many close calls with the finish line.

    But “close” — didn’t always win races.

    “I knew he was capable of running better. He got in some races with some really good athletes and he would get intimidated by the competition. He just lacked confidence,” Hirschi said.

    Hirschi continued to work with Maye, knowing his true running potential would some day eventually evolve.

    In the meantime, Maye developed other positive assets that helped his team.

    “He worked hard even when he knew he wasn’t running at his best. He was fun to be around and wasn’t a complainer. He was always encouraging others and motivated people to work hard,” Hirschi said. “He was a leader.”

    Maye had already assumed the roles of provider, husband and daddy when he married in 1991.

    Maye quietly left the BYU track program when his college eligibility expired in 1994.

    But the desire to compete didn’t go away.

    Nike provided Maye with the chance to compete at the professional level when they saw him run the 400 and 800 at a meet in 1994.

    And it was ultimately that sponsorship that help Maye achieve his true running potential.

    At the Olympic trials in 1996, Maye had a chance to represent the USA track and field team in Atlanta, and he also had a chance to prove his ability.

    Once again he fell short.

    “I wasn’t in shape for that meet. I wasn’t motivated,” Maye said.

    The motivation finally came when he finished dead last at the Olympic trials and Nike suspended his sponsorship until he could prove his talent again.

    “If I would’ve just quit (my career) at the Olympics, I wouldn’t have been able to compete in France,” he said.

    He would probably never know what he was capable of, either.

    Maye decided in August 1996 that it was time to get serious about his sport.

    He began to train with coach Hirschi again and wanted to qualify at the Nationals in Atlanta. The top four would go on to represent the USA as a 4×400 relay team in Paris.

    The goal wasn’t unachievable, but it would take some hard work.

    “I knew if I could run like coach trained me, I could run my race,” Maye said. “I started to visualize how I would run my races and things started happening.”

    After his fourth-place finish allowed him to move on to France, Maye started to gain confidence in his talent and himself.

    “The biggest change when I run now is my attitude. I used to get psyched-out when I would think about the talent I was up against,” he said.

    Shaking off the chains of defeat finally came at the hands of success and winning in France this month set a new tone for Maye’s running career.

    “I have a lot of confidence now. I know if I don’t worry about the competition and just run my race I’ll do okay.” he said.

    It took awhile, but Sean Maye did finally run “his race.”

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