Q&A with Senior Athlete Theresa Richards


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Senior Theresa Richards started her track career as a sprinter and will end it as one of the best javelin throwers in school history.
Senior Theresa Richards started her track career as a sprinter and will end it as one of the best javelin throwers in school history.
Courtesy: Ken Grosse/UCSD Athletics

When she arrived at UC San Diego as a freshman member of the Track & Field team, Theresa Richards was a sprinter and jumper with only vague notions of the javelin. Today, as a senior, the Chino Hills native owns the second best javelin mark (149-9) in the history of the program and was fifth at last year's NCAA Division II Championships, a placement she hopes to better in 2011. She's made a believer out of Head Coach Tony Salerno. "Theresa's athleticism has really paid off-she had a good sprint background and her speed and strength levels are very well-suited to the javelin," says Salerno. "I think she has as good a chance as anybody of finishing in the top three at nationals." With the CCAA Championships and then the NCAA meet rapidly approaching, Richards spent time talking about her event, her team and the future.

Q-Javelin seems like the ultimate event where stars are made, not necessarily born. Does anyone grow up thinking they're going to be a javelin thrower?

RICHARDS-Javelin stars are only made in Europe! I think in the United States most athletes are amused by throwing the javelin, which makes them learn to be great. Especially in California, where javelin is illegal in high school, I think most college javelin throwers either were brought to it in club track or learned about it in college, like me.

Q-What is your javelin story? When did you first remember seeing one? When did you first try throwing one? How did it become "your" event?

RICHARDS-Hmm, that is a real personal question, but I'll be honest. I was actually a runner in high school. I ran the 400 meters (58.4), 200 meters (26.0), and both relays. I was also a pretty good long jumper (17'-9"). Once I started throwing, many people joked, "why didn't I become a heptathlete?"  An interesting thought, but I just didn't think high jump was a real possibility.

Well, once I came to UCSD, I didn't really have much success in running my freshman year. To be honest I do not know what happened, was it the weights, workouts, who knows, but I just got slower. Over the summer, between my freshman and sophomore years, I lived with the NCAA heptathlon champion, Linda Rainwater. She had javelins in the apartment. I think that is the first time I held one. She joked about how I should train with her and start throwing javelin. I joked around but I didn't think I could be that good.

When fall training started, I remember asking Tony (Salerno) if I could try out. I think at first he took it as a joke, and I think that is what made me want to do it more. After beating all the girls in tryouts with the softball throw I got excited, although no one seemed to take me seriously until halfway into the season. I beat Linda and the rest of the heptathletes when I threw 130-plus feet at the Mangrum Invitational at Cal State San Marcos. I think then Tony and the rest of the team knew that I was going to start focusing on javelin.

Q-Unlike most other track & field events, javelin throwers seem to come in all shapes and sizes. In the end, what makes a good javelin thrower?

RICHARDS-Hahaha--NOW that is a FUNNY question! Yes, they do come in all shapes and sizes, some girls look way too buff to even be girls and some look like they are in the wrong event, but in the end it comes done to confidence, technique and strength.

Q-Your freshman year at UCSD, you did sprints and jumps before switching to javelin. Do you ever miss those events?

RICHARDS-ALL THE TIME!!!!!! I think everyone on the team can quote me on the fact that I am sooo bored after throwing javelin and I am eager to do something else. Unfortunately, it isn't really my decision. I get to run here and there, but never as a secondary event and I miss it a lot! It just not the same feeling, but I love javelin also because not many people can do it.

Q-Can you describe a typical workout? How much of your event is strength, how much technique?

RICHARDS-I would say its 50-50 but my teammate Nick (Howe) may say otherwise. A typical workout is warm up, drills, throwing, and lifting. Throwers lift heavy objects more than any other event in track. I would say (sprinter) Kelly Fogarty has equal to and possibly even more strength than I do, but because she lacks technique, I do not believe she would throw it really far her first time.

Q-One of your fellow javelin specialists at UCSD is current NCAA Division II men's champion Nick Howe. Is it beneficial having a high level competitor training with you? Do the two of you exchange tips and ideas?

RICHARDS-Yes! Nick and I are like brother and sister. We talk to each other every day. We give one another tips and ideas all the time. We like to practice with one another because we don't have a problem telling each other "WOW, that sucked! What is going through your head?"

We are honest with one another and have great hopes for each other. I think he would want me to be a national champion just as much as I want him to go to London in 2012 so I can get a ticket to watch! Lol. But yes, we have each other's back.

Q-In your opinion, is there an equivalent action in another sport to throwing the javelin?

RICHARDS-Many say baseball pitchers have an equivalent motion. I was talking to Guido Knudson (of the UCSD baseball team) the other day, when we were both heading to class at Center Hall with about 10 bags of ice on our right shoulders. He was saying how he wants to possibly come out for javelin next year, but I think even he knows that it is a different action then pitching. I mean I think the speed may help him and the strength, but it will take at least a few weeks 'til he perfects it.

Q-Track & Field is clearly both a team and individual sport. At UCSD, how much interaction and support is there between the throwers, jumpers, sprinters, hurdlers and distance athletes?

RICHARDS-I would say a good amount. Sometimes, it's hard to cheer for another teammate when you're focused on your event-but the coaches and the captains make it very important that we stay and cheer each other on and support each other. Especially at big meets like the CCAA Championships where every point counts. I think we all are there for each other and want the best for everyone.

Q-Who, on the team, outside of your event group, has been an inspiration for you?

RICHARDS-That's a hard one to answer. This question could get me in trouble haha, but I have two best friends on the team that I would say are both inspirations. Kelly Fogarty, sprints, and Deyna Roberson, hurdles, both have All-American titles. I think the fact that they have accomplished so much in their events makes me want to do well in mine so that we can all share the glory and moments together.

Q-You obviously had expectations coming into the UCSD Track & Field team as a freshman. What surprised you the most about the Triton program?

RICHARDS-This is a hard question to answer for me, but I guess the family aspect on the team. It's like our coaches are our parents and you know how parents are. Plus, they say we are their kids. That's probably why they don't have any yet. 

Q-What are some of your interests outside of athletics?

If I had more time in the day during college I think this list would go on and on. I like to cook a lot. My close friends on the team get together a lot and have dinners. We take turns cooking for one another. It's always nice to have a home-cooked meal prepared by someone else when you're far from home. Besides, school, track and working, I really just like to relax with friends and enjoy the time I have being young with few responsibilities.

Q-As a Structural Engineering major what are your long term aspirations related to your degree? What have been some of the most interesting classes you've taken?

RICHARDS-I changed my major the beginning of my sophomore year to structural engineering. I would like to get my masters, possibly at UCSD, in structural engineering studying seismic design, or earthquake engineering.

Then, go off into the world and work for a few years, hopefully getting my PE license at some point. Then, eventually start building private homes for people on the side.

Some interesting classes have been most of my senior civil sequence classes, that I have taken this year-Seismic Design, Steel Design, and Pre-stressed Concrete to name a few. I also liked a lot of the Urban and Planning courses I took as technical electives.

Q-Do any of your professors know what you do on the track & field team? If so, what do they think of it?

RICHARDS-Yeah they do, they kind of have to, especially when I miss classes because of it. Some are amazed, usually ask me "so what do you run?" and when I say I throw javelin they get a weird expression on their faces. I don't really mind it, makes me laugh a little.

Q-What is one thing you'd like to accomplish, as an athlete and as a student, before you graduate?

RICHARDS-I would like to win CCAA and NCAA Championships, get the school record and qualify for USA Nationals, to name a few. Oh yes, and GRADUATE with a 3.3!!!!! But I must lay all of that in God's hands.

Previous Q & A Articles

Austin West (Men's Tennis) April 17, 2011

Drew Lawyer (Men's Crew) April 11, 2011

Keith Okasaki (Men's Golf) March 26, 2011

Matt Herman (Men's Swimming & Diving) March 12, 2011

Hanalei Crowell (Women's Water Polo) March 5, 2011

Camille Gaito (Softball) February 23, 2011

Tim Shibuya (Baseball) February 8, 2011

Carl Eberts (Men's Volleyball) January 31, 2011

Neda Nguyen (Women's Swimming & Diving) January 24, 2011

Amy Bianchini (Fencing) January 14, 2011

Lauren Freidenberg (Women's Basketball) January 3, 2011

Christian Hatch (Men's Basketball) December 24, 2010

Blake Langland (Men's Swimming & Diving) November 27, 2010

Sarah McTigue (Women's Soccer) November 8, 2010

Brandon Yee (Men's Soccer) October 11, 2010

Bryce Madsen (Men's Water Polo) September 23, 2010

Annette Ilg (Women's Soccer) September 9, 2010

Ricci Luyties (Women's Volleyball Head Coach) August 24, 2010

Kevin Messey (Head Athletics Trainer) July 7, 2010

Dan O'Brien (Baseball Head Coach) June 18, 2010

Christine Merrill (Women's Track & Field) June 14, 2010

Vance Albitz (Baseball) May 11, 2010

Erik Elliott (Men's Tennis) May 3, 2010

Kelly Fogarty (Women's Track & Field) April 23, 2010

Liz LaPlante (Women's Tennis Head Coach) April 15, 2010

Kirby St. John (Baseball) March 24, 2010

Dan Perdew (Men's Swimming) February 28, 2010

Calvin Ross (Men's Volleyball) February 20, 2010

Nicole Saari (Softball) February 4, 2010

Brad Kreutzkamp (Women's Water Polo Head Coach) January 18, 2010

Tyler Acevedo (Men's Basketball) January 4, 2010

Dr. Cliff Kubiak (UCSD's Faculty Athletic Rep) December 18, 2009

Chelsea Carlisle (Women's Basketball) December 9, 2009

Carianne Cunningham (Women's Swimming) November 23, 2009

Elena Inouye (Cross Country) November 6, 2009

David Morton (Men's Water Polo) October 28, 2009

Juan Pablo Carillo (Men's Swimming) October 19, 2009

Sara Spaventa (Women's Soccer) October 10, 2009

Karen Reis (Women's Volleyball) October 2, 2009

Daniel Pavitt (Men's Soccer) September 23, 2009

Daniel Anderson (Cross Country) September 11, 2009

Peter Gresham (Men's Water Polo) September 2, 2009

Alexia Zatarain (Women's Soccer) August 24, 2009

Elaine Chen (Women's Volleyball) August 12, 2009

Jared Kukura (Men's Soccer) July 30, 2009

Dawn Lee (Former Women's Soccer Standout) July 8, 2009

Rob Mamula (Director of Athletic Performance) June 18, 2009

Garrett Imeson (Baseball) June 8, 2009

Leon Baham (Men's Track & Field) May 21, 2009

Kristyn Lesovsky (Softball) May 8, 2009

Kazumi Negishi (Men's Tennis) May 5, 2009

Laiah Blue (Women's Track & Field) April 16, 2009

Ryan Andre (Men's Crew) April 2, 2009

Josh Tanner (Baseball) March 24, 2009

Anju Shimura (Women's Swimming) March 7, 2009

Stephanie Bocian (Women's Water Polo) February 20, 2009

Lauren Chastain (Softball) February 5, 2009

A.J. Maulhardt (Men's Basketball) January 28, 2009

Annette Ilg (Women's Basketball) January 22, 2009

Steven Hardy (Men's Swimming) January 13, 2009

Frank Fritsch (Men's Volleyball) January 5, 2009