April 15, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
*Editor's Note: Richardson was named Conference USA Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Week later Tuesday.*
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – When Jasia Richardson’s shoes finally hit the welcoming sand to finish the longest college women’s triple jump in the nation this season, she knew she had done something special.
OK, she hoped she had.
“Was it legal? Please let it be legal,” Richardson said when asked her first thoughts after leaping a Marshall outdoors record of 44 feet, 6 inches (13.56 meters) Saturday in the Hilltopper Relays at Western Kentucky. “Please … please, let it be legal. The first thing I checked was the official. I said, ‘What was the wind?’”
Marshall track and field coach Jeff Small said later it was clocked at 4.0 meters per second, the maximum allowable. Richardson, a redshirt senior from Richmond, Va., had set the Herd school record at the WKU facility for a second straight year.
At the time, Richardson’s 44-6 easily eclipsed the previous best in NCAA Division I women’s track this season, a 43-4 1/4 (13.21m) by LaQue Moen-Davis of Texas A&M on March 26 at the Texas Relays. Later Saturday, Moen-Davis upped her best to 44-0 (13.41m) at the Sun Angel Classic at Arizona State.
That’s a half-foot shy of Richardson, who is fueled by this season being her last opportunity, and disappointment in her NCAA East preliminaries performance last May. Her 44-6 will easily qualify Richardson for the NCAA East Championships May 29-31 in Jacksonville, Fla.
“I still believe I have 2 to 3 feet I can get,” Richardson said Monday. “Last year, I don’t feel like I met my goals – the year before that, too. So, I definitely feel like I have more distance in me.
“I didn’t think I was going to PR (personal record) by 2 feet or 2 feet-plus. I didn’t think I’d start out, pretty much just missed my PR in the first meet. Two weeks later, I go 2 feet more. It’s ‘OK, wow, I did this.’ It’s the beginning of the season, so I figure there’s so much left in me.”
She had plenty of competition at WKU, too. Two Western Kentucky athletes, Ana Camargo and France Makabu – posted the third- and fourth-best triple jumps (both 43-3) nationally in the same meet.
Richardson’s Marshall indoor and outdoor records were the same distance – 42-4 3/4 (12.92m) – until Saturday. She set the indoor mark in January 26 at Kentucky. The outdoor mark was established at the Hilltopper Relays a year ago, where Richardson topped Andrea Jackson’s 2010 mark (set at Virginia Tech) by 2 inches.
Richardson had no 2013-14 indoor season to prime her spring performance. She transferred to Marshall from Radford – following former Herd assistant coach Willie Jackson (now at Western Kentucky) – after her freshman season.
That winter, she won the Big South Conference indoors triple jump title, then had to redshirt the outdoor season with fractures in both shins. So, she had an extra year of outdoors eligibility.
“A blessing in disguise,” she said. “If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t still be here jumping.”
It’s not as if Richardson, 23, just leaped onto the Marshall track and field scene. Last spring, it appeared she was ready to join then-seniors Vanessa Jules (heptathlon) and Crystal Walker (long jump) on the route to the NCAA nationals.
Her 42-4 3/4 ranked 10th in the NCAA East and 22nd nationally, qualifying Richardson for the NCAA East prelims in Greensboro, N.C. In those regionals, she jumped 40-9 3/4 (12.44m), missing the nationals by 0.22 meters (about 9 inches).
“That was heartbreaking,” Richardson said. “I was crushed, pretty hurt, but it was a learning experience. I definitely learned a lesson there. I probably wasn’t mentally that mature for track and field, where now I’m together, mentally and physically there. So, this year is going to be a great year for me. I already know.
“Now, I compete differently. Then, I competed with my competitors, everybody around. Now, I compete, it’s just me, compete against myself. I know what my PR is, so when I go out there, I don’t worry about who else is there. I go out to jump farther than I jumped last time, or farther than my PR.
“I don’t compete with the people around me. Not that I’m above them; it’s just a personal thing for me. I feel like it’s easier to compete against yourself than others. It’s part of that maturity. You know what you’re capable of, know what you can do. Mentally, it’s just easier to understand and comprehend.”
Richardson also said she has prospered under the guidance of first-year Herd assistant coach Don Yentes, the longtime Wyoming head coach who joined Small’s staff this season.
“Jasia is a really hard worker,” Yentes said. “She has gotten faster down the runway, which is really helping her increase her distance. Hopefully, we will keep her healthy so she has the chance to jump well at the end of the year.”
Richardson said her work with “Coach Don has been great. I definitely didn’t want to see Coach Johnson leave because I felt like the reason I was able to break and set records was because of him. But it was definitely a blessing in disguise.
“I love Coach Yentes, love the way he talks to me, works with me. He understands. He doesn’t want you to be injured. He doesn’t put too much on my body. He knows I’m an older athlete … it’s been all-around great.
“He’s definitely been working on getting me stronger. I already knew a lot of the technique, but he knows my focus points, and that’s what he works on, and I believe that’s why I PR’d by 2 feet. I never had a PR that big before.”
With no indoor competition, Richardson started the season at USF in the Bulls Invitational on March 20-21. Her first triple jump competition of the year brought a 42-4 1/4 -- missing her school record by a half-inch, or .01 meter.
“It did make it tougher, because I didn’t feel a track, a triple jump pit, didn’t feel anything for a long time. With no track (at Marshall), we’re working in Level E (of the Henderson Center), no triple jump. We don’t have anything like that, and a high jump mat is not the same. With me not having that feeling of competing, I thought it would be tough to get the hang of it.
“Then I came out at USF and yes, I was still comfortable. I automatically knew I was going to do well. I wanted to do better, but I had to think logically. I figured I did have to take the rust off my legs, but it all worked out for the better.”
Richardson said she is likely to only do the triple jump one more time in the regular season – next week at the prestigious Penn Relays. She plans to long jump in other meets until the Conference USA Championships at Rice from May 15-18.
“I’m happy for that, fine with that,” she said. “I don’t like triple jump too much, and conference and regionals and nationals are back-to-back-to-back, so it will definitely give me time to get my legs back.
“The long jump has gotten me to the point where I am in triple. I wasn’t carrying the speed I can carry now. But with Coach Yentes putting me into the long jump, it’s like he’s helping me teach my body that I can go faster. He really knows what he’s talking about on that. I trust him.”
Richardson said that she’s welcoming a return of the C-USA Championships to Rice.
“Houston, I love it there,” she said. “The last two years I haven’t had the best luck in Texas, at Rice. Well, I haven’t had a lot of luck there, but I love that runway, and I love that pit, so with me being more mature now mentally and physically, I believe great things are going to happen at the conference. I’m excited for it.”
Small said Richardson looks the part for the NCAA outdoor nationals, scheduled June 11-14 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
“Jasia has worked really hard over the past couple of years to get to where she is today,” Small said. “We knew that it was just a matter of time before she popped a big jump like this. We are really proud and excited for her, but it is just the beginning of more great things to come from this young lady.”