No freshman jitters: WGH’s Richardson moves on

AUSTINTOWN – While most freshmen are trying to adjust to tougher competition, Warren G. Harding’s Justice Richardson hit the ground running this season and proved she could handle the competition.

During the district meet at Austintown Fitch High School on Friday, the Raider freshman qualified for the Austintown regional in all four of her events (100-meter, 200-meter and 4×100 and 4×200 relay teams) and claimed the district title in the 100-meter with a time of 12.91.

“For being a freshman and moving on to regionals in all four of her events, that shows that she’s doing things the right way, she’s competing well,” Harding coach Charles Penny said. “As a sprinter at Harding, that’s what’s expected. You got to do four events.

“For someone so young, it bodes well for our future, but it’s all a learning experience.”

Richardson, who had little time to catch her breath in between her events, said that she now knows what the coaches have made her do during practice is paying off, giving her confidence going forward.

“It feels great to see all my hard work pay off,” Richardson said. “I know that if I keep doing what I can do, I’ll get better.”

Penny said that although finishing in the top four in four different events is an accomplishment, her first-place finish in the 100 could prove to be the most vital.

Instead of squeaking by with a fourth-place finish, Penny said that Richardson already knows that she can beat many of the other runners at the Austintown regional. Penny didn’t hold back in saying that the goal for Richardson isn’t just to make it to the regional meet but to go all the way to Columbus.

“Anytime you can win a major event at a big meet, it just builds self-esteem,” Penny said. “You definitely want to have momentum going into the state meet. You don’t want to always be getting fourth and trying to sneak in there. I think it always bodes well when you’re ahead of the pack.”

In the overall team places, the Fitch boys and girls teams took the district team titles, with the girls totaling 128 points and the boys 141.

This marked the third consecutive title for girls and the second consecutive title for the boys, according to girls coach Seth Steiner.

“I’m so proud of these kids,” Steiner said. “They put so much time in. Some of them start in the fall, some of them start in the winter. They give up so many other things just to commit to being successful at (track), and this is kind of the culmination of all that time and hard work they put in.”

Both teams dominated the competition from start to finish. On Friday, the girls boasted five district champions – Ebony Davis in the 200, Lauren Bower in the 100 and 300 hurdles, Gabby Figueroa in the discus and the 4×100 relay – and three district runners-up – Davis in the 100 dash, the 4×200 relay and Jayme Ritchie in the 300 hurdles.

The boys won seven individual champions – Sam Ortz in the high jump and 110 and 300 hurdles, Billy Price in the shot put, the 4×200 relay, Joe Harrington in the 200 and the 4×400 – and had four district runners-up – Gary Gibson in the 100, Carlos Herriott in the high jump, the 4×100 relay, Darrin Hall in the 200.

“In past years, we always had one strong area – our sprints had been strong or maybe the throws have been strong,” Steiner said. “But this has been such a balanced year for us. We have two qualifiers in a lot of events. So, we’re a very balanced team, and that’s what set us apart today.”

NOTES: On the girl’s side, Harding’s Chyna Stroud advanced in three of her four events (4×200, 4×100 and 200). For the boys, Harding’s James Rumple won the 400.