#ThrowbackThursday - JaiRich at TX State 2004
Throwback Thursday is a DyeStat feature that allows us to remember and celebrate some of the great meets and performances that have been a part of our DyeStat coverage since John Dye founded the site. Thanks to many stories, photos and videos that have been preserved in our archives, we are able to relive and share with you some of the very best of DyeStat.com.
'04 TX state meet pivotal point in Richardson's career
By Steve Underwood
However far hurdler Jason Richardson gets in the sport – whether he adds to his 2011 World Championship gold and 2012 London Olympics silver, both in the 110H – a pivotal point in his career will always be the 2004 Texas state meet, while he was a Cedar Hill senior.
DyeStat was on-hand that weekend in Austin; in fact, John and Donna Dye would witness most of Richardson’s highlights that year, from Simplot to Nike Indoor to Austin to Great Southwest and, finally, the adidas Outdoor Championships. “They were certainly at a lot of big meets, ones that I happened to run. It was cool seeing them and getting to know them all year,” Richardson recalled this week.
He defended his 110 title that weekend, May 14-15, 2004, with a then-US#1 13.46 (+1.7w), then roared to a big nation-leading 36.05 in the longer race – setting his career PR with the year’s top mark.
“It was a huge deal,” Richardson says. “The state meet is always the biggest thing you aspire to and Texas is one of the most competitive states in the country.”
On the surface, the Longhorn’s dominant sweep of the 110 and 300 hurdles was impressive, but hardly a surprise and certainly part of his progression to the top all year long. But few know what happened that week that renders the triumphs an unforgettable part of the Olympian’s career.
“It’s not a story I often tell,” Richardson begins. “I got in a major car accident that week. The accident was Tuesday and the meet was Saturday. I was very fortunate to walk away from it with some minor scratches. It was a very emotional week, and I was thankful not just to compete but still have my life.”
Richardson says the combination of the accident and the success that followed days later gave him a new perspective. “It was when I realized I had a gift that God had given me, and I wanted to make sure and do my best with it. It taught me a lot about what I wanted to do with my life.”
It wouldn’t be the last time Richardson would have a turning point in his career. The other big one would come about four years later. But first, the state meet success would be the beginning of a great end to that senior campaign as a Longhorn. Three weeks later, at Great Southwest, he ran his HS best in the 110s, with a 13.38 that made him #6 all-time (at the time), and won another fast 300H in 36.21. Then two more weeks down the road, Richardson became the fourth (then #3 all-time) to crack the 50-second barrier at 400H, running 49.79 at the adidas Outdoor Nationals. And if that wasn’t enough, the season also included a 13.76 over the 42-inch college/elite barriers, still #3 ever for preps, and the national Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year honor.
Then what followed was a collegiate career at South Carolina that was filled with ups and downs, injuries (he redshirted 2007) and comebacks, and the 2004 finale in Austin continued to have an impact. “It was part of what helped me get through college,” he remembers. “I would always remember state meet week. It was one of the big reasons I became a professional.”
Richardson won an NCAA 110H title in 2008, ran a 13.21 best at the SEC champs, and reached the Olympic Trials for the Beijing Games hoping to make Team USA. However, he and his USC coach Curtis Frye were “trying some new things” and that, plus the cumulative effects of other factors, sent his body into shutdown mode. His hamstring cramped up and he DNF’d in the prelims.
Again, Richardson faced doubt and reassessment. “It was a major character building time,” he says of the aftermath. “I knew I had a gift and it was really tested at the Trials. My reaction would define my career.”
This time, the son of Sandra and Charles Richardson benefited from his mother’s special vote of confidence, noted a 2012 story at dallasnews.com. “Sandra sat him down and told him, ‘Jason, you only have one chance in life,’” the story says. “‘Everybody at some point says I shoulda, woulda, coulda … and it stays with you your whole life. Just do it.’”
Richardson did. Though there were more trials and tribulations ahead, he would eventually move to L.A. and hook up with famous mentor John Smith. In 2011, he made Team USA for the Daegu IAFF World Champs and, after seemingly finishing second, was awarded Gold after Cuba’s Dayron Robles was DQ’d. A year later, he was the London Silver Medalist behind Aries Merritt.
Empathizing with other prep elites trying to make it in college and beyond, Richardson contends “early success in high school often makes it harder. There are huge expectations and the road can be tougher. I had to get it together and renew my faith.”
Richardson’s mom has not been the only “Sandra” in his life. His main coach at Cedar Hill was Sandra Mitchell “and I owe her so much,” he says. “She really nurtured the innocence of high school track in me, the love for and dedication to the sport. You know, how you just love to run, just love to race and just love to win. And how you trust in your coach and that you know she cares about you and has your back. High school was a great time and I really enjoyed it.”
Richardson goes on about Mitchell’s influence for him both on and off the track. “One thing I remember she did was to handwrite us these inspirational notes leading up to the state meet, and tell us to read them when we got up in the morning. She made you feel like she really had your back.
“Technically, she helped fine-tune my three-step, to make me quick enough and fast enough to pull it off. She also taught me how to defend what works for me. There have been certain things about my form that my coaches at the college and elite level have hated. But she taught me that everything takes time, and to enjoy competing and the place where you are at any given time.”
After his silver in Beijing, Richardson went home last fall to a special day in his honor and induction into his school’s Longhorn Legacy Athletic Hall of Fame. “It’s great to be appreciated like that,” he says. “I just hope there are athletes out there who can learn from me and, hey, I hope my records are smashed some day and that others will keep our athletic traditions strong.”
There’s no doubt that Cedar Hill won’t forget Richardson, nor will Richardson forget his days as a Longhorn and that life-changing 2004 state meet.