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Maplewood’s Richards earns repeat

Sophomore snags 2nd 1600 championship

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Maplewood sophomore Caleigh Richards closes in on the finish line to earn the Division III 1600 title with a time of 4:57.43.

COLUMBUS — When you’re only a sophomore in high school and there are four state title crowns to your name, there has to be some recipe or key ingredient to success.

It’s actually rather simple — Caleigh Richards just wants it more.

Mission accomplished for the Maplewood phenom, as she earned the Division III state title in the 1600, clocking a time of 4:57.43 Saturday morning at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University.

It wasn’t easy with Claire Rethman catching up after Richards led for a majority of the race, but when the senior from Fort Loramie started to eye the finish line stride for stride, Richards kicked in the afterburners to stay just a few steps ahead.

“It’s pretty exciting. I’m so blessed to get this opportunity. I’m so grateful,” Richards said. “I’m just a super competitive person, and I knew that I had to give it my all, so I just sprinted and did what I could to try and win.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure how close they were, not until (Rethman) came up on me there. I think I got a little comfortable there in the second and third laps, but she’s a great runner, so I just knew I had to give it my all because she’s trying to accomplish the same things as me.”

Growing up, Richards had her older brother Caleb, a senior runner for the Rockets, to keep her on her toes, always wanting to edge him out as the younger sister.

It was those memories and experiences that led to Richards’ mental toughness and drive to beat anyone on any track.

“I think that having an older brother kind of helps establish that competitiveness because I always wanted to beat him, but I guess it just comes naturally to me ever since I was little,” Richards said. “I knew that last year I had the capability of doing it, and so I just had to go out there and run what I’ve been running throughout the season and just hoped I’d have a good day.”

Nearly an hour later, Richards found herself on the track to potentially defend her 3200 title, but the one mile-two mile double is far easier said than done. Richards took the limited amount of time in between events to take in some fluid and rest her legs, but with a blazing sun mixed with a difficult field, competing in two events as a distance athlete is no small task.

She may not have won, marking the first time in her high school career that she hasn’t taken the crown in a championchip race, but fourth place wasn’t something Richards was disappointed in following the 3200.

“Just my competitiveness, I just knew that I needed to get the best that I can, first and second were probably out of the question. That’s kind of my fault. I didn’t put myself in that position to be able to get that, and I probably should have,” Richards said, running a 11:07.77, being as far back as eight place in the sixth lap. “I just tried to get the best spot I could, and just did my all that last lap.”

Megan Hipple of McDonald recorded a stellar performance in the 3200, earning an event victory with 10:55.09. Despite running the 1600 earlier, Richards nearly hit her event-winning time she recorded last June of 11:07.23.

“I already won a state title, so I can’t be upset, I just have to be grateful for what I have,” Richards said. “Megan Hipple, she worked really hard and some with all the other girls, I’m just blessed to be able to accomplish what I have and I’m grateful, fourth place is nothing to hang my head on.”

sports@tribtoday.com

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