Much like her sprinting ability, the past two months have been a blur for Sha’Carri Richardson.
LSU’s freshman sprint sensation has been on a serious roll since late March, when the outdoor track and field season was just starting to heat up, and Richardson isn’t taking her foot off the pedal now.
She proved it this past week at the Southeastern Conference championships, where an impressive sweep of the 100- and 200-meter dashes came after her scorching anchor leg on the 4x100 relay brought LSU all the way from fourth place to the top of the awards podium.
It earned Richardson, a Dallas native, a spot for the first time on the 10-woman watch list for the Bowerman Award that goes to the nation’s top male and female athletes.
“It’s a real honor to be on that list,” Richardson said. “I feel the timing is right because everything is lining up with my performances on the track like they are lining up off the track.”
Her timing has been turning heads since the final of the Texas Relays on March 30 when she clocked a time of 10.91 seconds in winning the 100 meters.
The only problem was the rocket-like run was aided by a 4.3 meters per second tailwind, well over the allowable of 2.0 mps for record-keeping purposes and 4.0 mps to make the NCAA descending order list.
Still, it’s the fastest all-conditions time in the world this season by a collegian and second overall.
The road to Austin, Texas, and the NCAA semifinals and finals begins Thursday for the LSU men's track and field teams.
While it didn’t go into the school’s record books, it was a big run for Richardson because it came in her home state.
It was also run on the same track where she won three Texas Relays titles in the 100 and a total of eight Texas 4A state titles.
“When I run on that track, I just put it in another gear,” Richardson said. “I’m back in my home state and I get motivated to compete there.”
The 10.91 was more than two-tenths of a second faster than her old all-conditions best of 11.12, which she set a year ago. That tied her for fifth on the all-conditions list in U.S. prep history.
“I just did what my coaches told me and went out and performed,” Richardson said. “I really wasn’t expecting that, but everybody was saying I had it in me.”
As far as she’s concerned, the best is yet to come.
“I ran that with the wind, so it didn’t feel like me running that time,” she said. “But I still hit that time, so it tells me I have the capability to do that. … It tells me I have the strength to be able to do those things.”
She certainly had the strength to make up a lot of ground on the anchor in the 4x100 relay at the SEC meet.
Getting the baton in fourth place, she quickly picked off runner after runner and finished off a season’s-best time of 42.93 seconds for LSU. The time ranks second nationally.
“Honestly, I just use something like that to motivate me and push me to go faster,” Richardson said of the task she faced. “I just get the baton and see the target (the finish line), and make sure I give it my best effort.”
After that, she won the 100 with a slightly wind-aided time of 11.00 and the 200 with a wind-legal, personal-record time of 22.57 seconds.
“To me personally, the kind of effort she gave in the 200 was really impressive,” LSU coach Dennis Shaver said. “It was 50-something degrees, she had already run two races and she wasn’t favored. But she got in there and won the race … she’s a very fierce competitor.
“She’s become more confident and her top-end speed has improved. Sha’Carri is very coachable and very confident in what she can do. Some of those traits, you can’t coach.”
Richardson will try to duplicate that performance at the NCAA east Preliminary rounds Thursday through Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida.
That meet serves as a qualifying meet with the top 12 athletes in each event and top 12 relay teams advancing to the NCAA semifinals and finals.
As luck would have it, they’ll be held June 5-8 in Austin, Texas, where Richardson has enjoyed so much success in the past.
“It’s an amazing place to go back to,” she said with a smile. “I really do like the Texas track. It brings out another side of me … a good side.”