May 28, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – She’s the last woman standing … OK, so she really will be jumping, but you get the idea.
Jasia Richardson, 23, will be the last Marshall student-athlete competing in the 2013-14 season this weekend. She headed today for Jacksonville, Fla., where the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field East Preliminaries are scheduled Thursday-Saturday.
With a top-12 finish in the triple jump there among 48 competitors from the eastern half of the nation, Richardson would move on to the NCAA Nationals from June 11-14 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
The triple jump competition opens at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“I can do it,” Richardson said before leaving campus. “Right now, I’m in great shape, and I’m more confident. I’ve been working on some of the problems I had (in the Conference USA meet). I feel like it will be much better.”
Richardson, a redshirt senior from Richmond, Va., is making her second NCAA Outdoor East regional appearance. As a sophomore in 2012 in Jacksonville, she placed 20th with a triple jump of 12.55 meters (41 feet, 2 1/4 inches).
She figured she could join former teammates Vanessa Jules and Crystal Walker at the nationals last season. But in the East Prelims in Greensboro, N.C., Richardson’s 12.44 effort (40-9 3/4) left her 18th.
“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.”
A good dose of her confidence is rooted in her 2014 performance.
On April 12 at the Hilltopper Relays at Western Kentucky, Richardson jumped a Marshall-record 13.56 meters (44-6). At the time, it was the longest triple jump of the season by a collegiate woman.
It still ranks fourth nationally this season, and second among East Prelims qualifiers, behind Florida junior Cierra Brewer’s Division I-best 13.91 meters (45-7 3/4) on May 15 at the Southeastern Conference Championships in Lexington, Ky.
Richardson finished second in the C-USA Championships in Houston that same weekend with a 13.12 effort (43-1/2). That followed a 13.10 (42-11 3/4) in late April at the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia.
“It was crazy,” Richardson said of her last C-USA performance. “Honestly, I believe if I jump this weekend what I jumped at conference, I can get to Oregon, I really do. With me jumping what I did last week and still having a pretty good ranking in the nation, in my region, I think I’ll be fine.
“It feels good to say that, because I felt (at the C-USA meet) like I did bad, so if that was bad, I can be much better.”
At the C-USA meet, Richardson fouled on her first, third and fifth jumps. Her sixth, and final, hop, skip and jump produced her scoring distance of 13.12.
So, what did she view as “bad” in Houston – her fouling or her distance.
“Both, both,” Richardson said, smiling. “I came in and was really confident, and I knew that I know I have a problem hitting the board and marking consistently. The only thing on my mind was, ‘You have the talent, you can jump far, the only thing you have to do is hit the board. Just hit the board, and you’ll jump far.’”
It wasn’t far enough, as UTEP junior Nickevea Wilson soared 13.38 meters (43-10 3/4) – the sixth best triple jump in the outdoor season nationally.
“Jasia has a lot of talent,” said Herd assistant coach Don Yentes, who coached the jumpers on Coach Jeff Small’s team that is ranked 12th in the Mid-Atlantic Region and No. 62 nationally – and with no track and field facility. “If she relaxes and jumps what she can, she’s going to Eugene.”
Yentes said two other Herd athletes just missed qualifying for the NCAA East meet. Sophomore Asia Bange had a season-best 13.84 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles, but the 48-competitor prelims cutoff was at 13.73.
Freshman Catika Slay was 3/4-inch short in the long jump with a 6.00 effort. It took a 6.02 to qualify.
Richardson said she quit worrying long ago what her competitors jumped, so when Wilson exploded to her 13.38 on her first jump at the C-USA meet, it didn’t matter to the Marshall veteran.
“I don’t look at the other girls, watch them,” Richardson said. “I don’t look at jumps, so I never know what they are. I just go into the meet trying to beat myself, and if I can do that, get my personal best, I know I’ll automatically win if I get that goal.
“I was third (at C-USA) going into the last jump. I was the best one in the field and they knew that and I knew it. I was having an off day. It was just hard trying to get myself back together. I was a nervous wreck.
“So it was, ‘OK, how do I get myself back together to where I need to be?’ I got second in conference, did much better than I did there last year (by nearly 2 feet, at 12.58, 41-3 1/4). I was OK with that, but just OK.”
She said some of her nerves get wrapped up in the fact that triple jumpers don’t have many opportunities to compete. Her NCAA Prelims jump will be only her fifth triple jump competition this spring. She’s done the long jump a few other times.
“When you practice as much as you do, you do feel like your chances to really compete are limited,” Richardson said. “Runners, they run every meet. Hurdlers, they hurdle every meet. Then, you have triple jumpers where most don’t triple jump every meet, and it’s hard because it’s a different feeling.
“The long jump is competition, but it’s not the same feeling as the triple jump. Long jump is not my sport. So, you’re trying to control yourself, and my adrenalin is so different when it’s the triple jump. I think that hypes me up, which probably contributes to me fouling.
“You don’t practice it as much. I’ve been practicing a lot on an approach and it’s working. It’s about mentally calming me down, becoming more stress free.”
Richardson said she has two goals Saturday night at the 9,400-seat Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida.
“Getting into the next round in Oregon is the No. 1 goal, and that will always feel great,” Richardson said. “And my goal on my first jump in Jacksonville is a 13.60 (44-7 1/2), and then I don’t have worry about anything. That would be my PR (personal record), not my season goal, but it gets me back where I need to be.”
She wants to do in Oregon what the Herd’s Jules and Walker did last year and weight thrower Erin Compton did in 2003, finish as an Outdoor All-American. An athlete needs to score in the finals (top eight) in an NCAA Nationals event to receive that distinction.
“I want to be an All-American,” Richardson said. “That’s a final goal. I’d really like to be top three. That would be a nice finish for me and for Marshall.”