MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. --- UMO Athletics sat down with Trojan Sports Network Anchor Alex Hayden to discuss the journey he had to becoming a member of one of the biggest sports radio networks, MRN (Motor Racing Network), and how his contributions to the University of Mount Olive have helped him in his career. Just recently Hayden was named the lead co-anchor for MRN's NASCAR races starting in 2019.
Hayden's path to broadcasting started in acting when he took time away from college (ECU) to visit family down in Orlando, Fla. He received an acting audition at Universal Studios and earned a job there for three years. During his time at Universal, Hayden participated in tv commercials and the Country Music Countdown with American country music singer Travis Tritt. Knowing acting wasn't a lifelong career the Goldsboro, N.C. native looked towards the base of NASCAR headquarters which is in Daytona Beach, Fla., just 40 miles away from where the young Hayden was at the time and a place he frequently visited during his time off.
Speaking with a friend at NASCAR headquarters Hayden knew this was the path he wanted to take, but there was one catch, he needed experience. A friend back in Goldsboro saw an advertisement in the classifieds for the Wayne County Speedway, which is no longer in existence, looking for a play-by-play announcer. Hayden went for the audition and through random selection was the last of 14 people to go. However, Teresa Richardson the General Manager and Promoter of the track gave Alex the call he had been waiting for, he was hired and began calling Friday night races in Goldsboro in April 1996.
After three weeks of calling races, he was given another opportunity to call Saturday night races at East Carolina Speedway in Robersonville, N.C. At the time unbeknownst to Hayden, Richardson had recorded some of the play-by-play from the Wayne County Speedway and sent it into MRN Radio. Late in 1996, Hayden received a call from MRN Radio asking if he would come and audition with them, Hayden gladly accepted. Following a NASCAR Truck Series race in January of 1997 Hayden got the second biggest call of his career and he started working for MRN in a part-time role through the first season.
Since 1997, Hayden has served as a Pit/Turn Announcer for MRN Radio working all of NASCAR's weekend series during the season (Monster Energy Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Camping World Truck Series) which runs from February-November.
"The relationships I've made along the way; friendships and people I have been able to meet and spend time with and become friends with from every professional sport has been the most rewarding part of my job," said Hayden.
After several years of working at MRN the time off during the week gave Hayden the ability to give back to his local community. In the late 2000s roughly 2005-10, a local television station in Goldsboro hired Hayden to broadcast Wayne County's high school football and basketball when he could. During the season Hayden mentioned the fact that UMO, Mount Olive College at the time, was right down the street and college athletics would be a great addition to broadcast them as well. Not too long after that Alex Hayden began broadcasting Trojan men's and women's basketball games inside Kornegay Arena. The contract only allowed for a few games a season due to Hayden's NASCAR schedule but the connection between the two had been built.
"I've always been a sports person and wanted to do different sports. I always want to branch out and grow as a broadcaster and learn different disciplines. I like to constantly be challenged and I love competition. Fortunately, the University of Mount Olive has given me the opportunity to do a lot more games this past season which I have embraced! I've done men's volleyball, never done that before and it was a lot of fun. Same with baseball and it's given me a chance to continue to grow as a broadcaster and learn different things".
Hayden has also been an invaluable asset in the training of young broadcasters on the Trojan Sports Network during his time at UMO. He has worked with students from varying degree and age levels and has also helped with students from the new Sports Communication major, which has an entry-level emphasis in broadcasting and webcast production, as well as other aspects.
"It gives me a chance to give back because it's tough in this field. It's tough when you don't know what you're doing or to have someone telling you you need to work on this, this, and this. As I started learning at MRN and asked my mentors questions, I realized how valuable it is to have someone who's been there with experience to help me out. That is what I love about this opportunity here at the University of Mount Olive. I get to sit down and talk with these students about you're doing this really well, but you need to work on this".
"It's criticism and you have to able to take it when you work in the public eye. The fun has been to watch some of these students grow in the short amount of time I've been able to spend with them and it's been enjoyable to watch their confidence grow".
Hayden's advice to young broadcasters: "Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself because you are going to make mistakes. The more you laugh with yourself whether you're on the air or it's at a critique session after you're done the less stressed you'll be".
Hayden can be heard on the Trojan Sports Network broadcasting the Trojans home athletics events and special ceremonies.