2017 ALL-AREA BOYS' CROSS COUNTRY: Knights' Richardson aims for record
BY JESSIE H. NUNERY
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Like most 5-foot tall seventh graders who don't allow height to get in the way of their athletic ambitions, Jordan Richardson knew he was going to the NBA.
He had the first name after all, and like the all-time great shooting guard Michael Jordan, Richardson felt he would develop into a basketball player.
"I thought I was Michael Jordan, but I wasn't there," Richardson said. "After I went to cross country my seventh grade year, I started to like it more than basketball. I still tried to make the team my eighth grade year, but after the second time getting cut (I knew it was over."
Richardson made the right choice, and years later, he is a Division I cross country prospect with his eyes on a long-standing school record. He also is the Telegram's 2017 All-Area Boys' Cross Country Runner of the Year.
The Northern Nash junior placed 12th at the NCHSAA 3-A state championship meet, capping a season where Richardson wasn't challenged in cruising to the Big East Conference individual championship and a third-place showing in the East region.
The Knights' school record is 15:38, leaving Richardson, a three-year standout, within reach of a record that recent Telegram All-Area Runners of the Year -- Stephen Whitehead and Daniel Belton --- have had within their sights but were unable to obtain.
Richardson’s personal record is 16:06, and he has 15:37 written on a board to remind him of what could be.
"My main focus is to break the school record, but it will be hard if I don't get into the 15s," Richardson said. "I have to get into the 15s, then I'm going for the school record."
It might sound simple, but Knights coach Jeff Dodrill, who was the coach who cut Richardson from the basketball team at Red Oak Middle School and made him the team's manager, agrees with the breakdown of the record. Dodrill said no matter what time barrier challenges his runners, getting to a personal record is all mental once the athlete sees the time with their own eyes.
"We've only had two or three runners in the history of the program run these times," Dodrill said. "He is on track to be one of the top runners we've had here."
If Richardson is going to drop another 30 seconds off his PR, he admits there are areas to tighten, especially with regard to speed.
He can name the races -- the Wolfpack Invitational, the Bo Run in Greenville and the Eastern Regional meet on his home course at Red Oak Middle School -- where during the final 200 yards or so he was passed in a sprint with a comparable opponent.
"This year I'm going to focused on not letting that happen," Richardson said.
The final "kick" as it is referred to, is something that can push Richardson from above average to elite, and with faster times posted during the next year, he could receive more Division I college offers. Lipscomb in Tennessee has been the first to extend Richardson an offer.
Richardson is willing to try anything from yoga to relieve pre-race stress to continuing his vegetarian diet with an occasional taste of shrimp.
He has put a healthy amount of pressure on himself to continually improve, and he is as close to finishing in 15 minutes as any runner has been at the school with a full year of eligibility remaining.
Richardson paced a team that expected to be great prior to the season but re-set their expectations when some of the better athletes did not return. A younger group emerged led by Richardson, who had to self-motivate himself not only for the big races but for a handful of conference races where he clearly was the best runner.
"His times are better when there is more competition," Dodrill said.
He won more races than he lost this season, but doesn't know the exact number. For Richardson, it doesn't make much sense to look back.
He's looking forward at a mark that others might be chasing in the future.
"I don't want to get absorbed about attention I gain from each meet," Richardson said. "I want to focus on the meet ahead. If I don't produce, it will be bad for the team and myself, so I focus on what lies ahead."
JORDAN RICHARDSON, JR., NORTHERN NASH: The junior finished the season as Big East Conference champion and also placed third in NCHSAA 3-A East Regional and 12th at 3-A state championships. Richardson has an offer to run at Division I Lipscomb (Tenn.).
KAZALEE JOHNSON, SR., NASH CENTRAL: Johnson finished as runner-up at the Eastern Plains Conference championship with a time of 17:21, and he was sixth at the NCHSAA 2-A Eastern Regional meet.
JESHON SMITH, SR., SW EDGECOMBE: Smith finished his career by placing fifth at the Eastern Plains Conference championship with a time of 18:37.
JOSEPH DEES, JR., NORTHERN NASH: Dees placed fourth (17:29) in the Big East as the Knights won the team’s sixth straight championship. He also finished 16th at the 3-A Eastern Regional.
MALIEK SMALL, SR., ROCKY MOUNT HIGH: Small completed a strong career by posting a fifth-place finish (17:49) in the Big East.
MATT WRIGHT, SO., NORTHERN NASH: Wright is part of an emerging group of Knights underclassmen. He finished sixth (17:58) at the Big East Championships.
DAMIAN MOORE, SR., ROCKY MOUNT HIGH: Moore was part of a Gryphons 1-2 duo that kept the team competitive all season. He placed eighth (18:05) in the Big East to complete his career.
JUSTIN MARSHALL, FR., NORTHERN NASH
KEYONTE WILLIAMS, SR., ROCKY MOUNT HIGH
KAMDEN JOHNSON, SO., NORTHERN NASH
CHANCE SAVAGE, FR., NORTHERN NASH
SHAMIR SMALL, SO., SOUTHERN NASH
DONOVAN DICKENS, SR., ROCKY MOUNT HIGH
COLEY CORBIN, SR., NORTHERN NASH
A.J. STYLES, SR., NASH CENTRAL
TREY AYERS, JR., SW EDGECOMBE
EVAN BULLOCK, FR., NASH CENTRAL
RAQUAVIUS HOPKINS, SR., TARBORO