Heather Richardson skates to third national record in three days
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
KEARNS — Unprecedented. Unparalleled. Unbelievable.
There doesn't seem to be an adjective capable of conveying the magnitude of what Heather Richardson accomplished in the U.S. National long track championships this weekend.
The 23-year-old North Carolina native skated four races and set a national record in each race. Friday she broke the national record in the 500, and then she broke her own record in the competition's second 500-meter race of the day.
Saturday she broke Chris Witty's 10-year-old national record in the 1,000-meter race.
And Sunday she finished the weekend with another record-setting victory, as she skated the 1,500-meters in 1:53.84. Her time shatters the three-year-old record set by Jennifer Rodriguez of 1:54.19.
"I didn't expect that," she said smiling. "I think if you just go out and work on what you want, the skating will come — and the speed also."
Richardson was surprised at her historic weekend — especially because she'd tried to break that 1,500-meter record two years ago.
"There was a World Cup here," said Richardson, who will represent the U.S. at the World Sprint Championships later this month at the Utah Olympic Oval. "The ice was super fast and I was like, 'Oh, let's go for it.' I was three-hundredths away then, and I gave it everything that I had."
Sunday she didn't even consider the record. In fact, time wasn't even her focus as she skated one of the sport's toughest races.
"The 1,500 is a mental race; it really is," Richardson said. "It's really hard to sprint that long. So I just wanted to focus on my technique. My coach gives me the strategy before the race. I really wanted to listen to him today, and it worked out well."
The stragey was start "semi-hard" and then focus on technique the first lap.
"Then build the corners on the second lap and just hold on for the last one," she said grinning. "I thought, 'It's my last race, so I might as well give it everything I have.'"
U.S. long track sprint coach Ryan Shimabukuro cringed, just a little, at all the record-breaking talk.
"We didn't even think about records this weekend," said Shimabukuro. "We just wanted to get her back skating solid coming back from Japan. That was a hard trip coming back and such a short period of time. It's a good check point of where we're at; we still have a lot of work to do before the World Sprints, but I'm very satisfied and happy for her."
Richardson was especially thrilled that her mom was in the crowd to watch her win in record-setting time. Brittney Bowe finished second.
While Richardson dominated every event on the women's side, the men had a different winner for each race.
Sunday it was 22-year-old Brian Hansen.
He didn't set a record with his time of 1:44.96, but he did beat one of his idols for the first time.
"I wouldn't say I was expecting to win at all," said Hansen. "I never actually beat Shani (Davis) in the nationals in the 1,500, so winning was a big deal for me He's someone I always looked up to, so to be competing with him and beating him is a big accomplishment for me."
Davis took silver with a time of 1:46.65 and Joey Mantia was third with a time of 1:47.13.
Like most of the athletes, Hansen hopes to carry his success this weekend into the World Cup Circuit.
"I just hope to keep this up and I hope to race well at the World Cups and World Championships at the end of the year," he said. "I wasn't planning on winning at all, but I knew I might be close, especially after yesterday's 1,000. So I was hoping maybe today I could get a win and I did, so I'm really happy about it."
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