USC's Richardson prepares for many hurdles on road to NCAA Championship
May 30, 2006
Columbia, SC - The SEC runner-up in both the 110m and 400m hurdle events, South Carolina sophomore Jason Richardson qualified for both events at last weekend's NCAA East Region Championship, winning the 110m hurdle event and finishing as the runner-up in the 400m hurdles.
He ran personal bests in both hurdles finals at the region meet (110m hurdles: 13.36; 400m hurdles: 49.90). In addition, he ran the anchor leg of USC's region-winning 4x400m relay (3:04.62), putting up the fastest time for a USC 4x4 since 2003 (3:02.86).
USCsports.com sat down with Richardson, a three-time All-American, as he prepared for the NCAA Championship June 7-10 in Sacramento. The captain of his high school debate team, Richardson was a two-time World Youth champion who has been a member of the Dean's List four times at USC.
Q: You qualified for the NCAA Championship in both the 110m hurdles and the 400m hurdles. Which event do you prefer and why?
Richardson: I prefer the 110m hurdles, but I need to start putting more emphasis into both of the hurdles races. As NCAAs comes up, I am going to put equal energy into training for both.
Q: Your USC training partner Thomas Hilliard qualified for the 400m hurdles. Will that help you as you continue to train for the NCAA meet?
Richardson: My training partner in general is good. Tom has been there in the high hurdles and the intermediates. His help as a training partner will carry over all the way to nationals.
I'm probably more excited about him making the NCAAs than me. I'm excited in the sense that his college soccer to track story is more compelling than my story. Coming here from high school you couldn't tell me I wouldn't make nationals. I ran 49.79 in high school and that would have gotten third at nationals, but last year as a freshman I didn't make the finals at regionals. It has made it a better year making it. But for Thomas, he has gone from 56 seconds last year to 50 point this year. He has been the real story this year.
Q: Two of South Carolina's top sprinters, Shalonda Solomon and Amberly Nesbitt (went 1-2 in the 100m at the East Region meet) have said they don't talk a lot about their 100m or 200m races against each other. Do you and Thomas talk about your races in both hurdles with each other?
Richardson: We joke about the race more than talk about it. Thomas takes it out really hard. I wait 'til the last second to kick really hard. We joke about it. We joke about track in general. It's more about joking around than planning it out. Thomas helps me a lot in knowing that I have to perform well because my teammate will always be there and be ready to take my spot in the places if I don't perform, so I guess you could say he pushes me. Sometimes it's not just me versus the competition, it's us vs. the competition. Carolina vs. the competition. I hope he does as well as I do at nationals.
Q: You and Shawn Harris of Texas Tech are the only two to qualify in both hurdle events. Do you know Shawon? What does it take to be good at both events?
Richardson: I don't know him. Truthfully, just focusing on them. I think a lot of athletes are discouraged from competing in both in college. On a lot of my recruiting trips the coaches told me I had to chose one or the other. But Coach Frye didn't make me chose or ask me to have a preference. (Former Carolina All-American) Kenny Ferguson did it his freshman year and he was a success.
I wanted to do both when I came to college, but injuries and a lack of success in the intermediates had me re-thinking my future. One day I was looking back at high school and back then doubling wasn't an issue. I didn't pick one - I just did both. When I ran at the World Youth Championships I was being called ambitious, even stupid for doing the double. It was funny, but doubling was second-nature. Funny though, when you achieve success then everyone wants to be your friend. I just need to get back to my old form.
Q: You anchor the 4x4. Did you run this event in high school? What is your favorite leg to run and why?
Richardson: I ran the 4x400m relay in high school., My favorite leg is second. Mainly because unlike a lot of other people I don't have the killer instinct to run people down. I think the second leg is the crucial leg. You want a strong pop off leg and then the second leg sets up your position and the tone for the next two legs.
Q: You say you don't have the killer instinct to run relays, yet you ran down another team or two to help your team win the 4x400m relay at the East region meet. Did you feel it that night or what?
Richardson: I was concerned to tell you the truth. My hamstring was bothering me after the 110m hurdles (more external pain from smacking hurdles). It was a nagging, annoying pain rather than a serious injury. Because I stayed out there for the 110m hurdles ceremony, I didn't warm up as long as I should have for the 400m hurdles, but I went out and competed anyway. After the 400m hurdles I was fatigued. Running finals in both races in an hour took a lot out of me. When you run the anchor leg you know you can't hand off to someone and hope they get you back in it. I had faith that the three legs would run well before me. For our relay to go 3:04 with two guys that had just run the 400m hurdles is very exciting. It shows our relay has a good fitness level. I can't make predictions because nationals have a way of having shocking things happen in the relays. You never know what will happen. It comes down to heart and I feel our relay has a lot of heart. I wouldn't be surprised if we won or finished second or third. Our relay has a lot of pride because of some of the issues we have been through. When we missed making the finals by .10 of a second indoors my freshman year, we began to realize each person and each leg is important and you can't wait for others to do your job. You have to put your one fourth effort forward.
Q: What are your goals at the NCAA meet?
Richardson: I would like to win the outdoor title in the 110m hurdles. I am different at nationals. I won't say superman, but I draw a lot of from the crowd and the pressure of the meet. You don't train this hard to win conference or regionals and lose at nationals. What happens at nationals is sometimes more important than the rest of the season. You become like Shalonda Solomon - you do something crazy. For me to have a lot of speed and confidence going into nationals is great in the 110m hurdles. And the same with the intermediates.
Q: What events do you enjoy watching at nationals?
Richardson: All the sprint events. The 4x1, the 400m specifically, but it's unfortunate because I will compete a quite a bit and miss a lot of the meet. But luckily CBS will provide coverage so I will be able to see some of the meet later.
Q: There are a number of great hurdlers who have come through South Carolina. Do you feel their legacy?
Richardson: Their legacy is important because it helps in knowing this isn't an un-charted path. Terrence Trammell trailblazing in the 110m hurdles. Kenny Ferguson's high-level of performance and his ability to do both. Because of them, I don't want to stop there. I don't stop in just going 48 seconds in the 400m hurdles. Because of them I want to make my own marks. I want to run low 13 and break 48 before I leave USC.
Q: What do you like to for fun?
Richardson: With what little free time I have, I like to hang out with the team. We just chill. We laugh, we act stupid. We have to have the most inside jokes of any team in America. I talk to friends on other teams around the country and they all admire the team unity and energy we have. A lot of my free time is spent having fun with the team. It's hard to explain the jokes. Derek Pressley and I have a lot of jokes. Chelsea Hammond and I share odd noises we can make. Me and Natasha (Hastings) talk about each other's hair. Just a lot of small details that make it fun. We laugh a lot.
Q: Anything you want to say to Gamecock fans?
Richardson: As always, thank you for being a fan of track and field first and the Gamecocks second. Our sport is in need of viewer-ship. As support and exposure increase in the USA, hopefully track and field will be like it is in Europe. Track is called Athletics in Europe and I hope it can get to that status in America. Thanks your time.