WILMINGTON- Once Kevin Richardson set his mind to being a champion pole vaulter, nothing was going to stand in his way. Not even his school not having a pole vaulting team.

Richardson, a Wilmington native recently graduated from the Landmark School, spent the first three years of his high school career accruing a great deal of accolades for his performance with the cross country and track teams, among other athletic and academic achievements.

But in March, Richardson got to work on a fresh challenge. He had long requested his coach, Tom O’Riordan, for the chance to pole vault, despite the school lacking the facility and equipment for such training.

“I chose pole vaulting because I saw people doing it at camp and I thought it looked interesting,” Richardson said. “I wasn’t that good at high jump, so once I saw people pole vaulting that really attracted me.”

“Our problem was we didn’t have a place to train,” O’Riordan said. “So Kevin took it upon himself to find a place to train.”

Multiple times a week, and on the weekends, Richardson would drive over an hour to Patriot Pole Vault Club in Sterling and Westborough. This drive could often take hours with traffic, but Richardson never wavered.

“I am very competitive,” Richardson admitted with a laugh. “I just have a natural drive to compete and try to be the best in my sport.”

Working with O’Riordan and Coach Douglas Lang of the Patriot Pole Vault Club, Richardson rapidly became a formidable opponent for any competition in the area.

In short order, Richardson broke the EIL record of 9 feet, setting it to 11 feet, 6 inches.

“The hardest part of pole vaulting is fighting your instincts,” Richardson said. “A pole vaulter is supposed to push against the pole, but your instincts tell you to pull. It’s a challenge also to move up heights on poles.”

Since graduating, Richardson has continued to collect accolades. He travelled to Fitchburg to compete in the USTAF- New England Junior Olympic Championships. There, Richardson dazzled the crowd with a 12 foot, six inch jump, qualifying for the Region 1 championship in Albany.

On July 9, Richardson braved torrential downpours and crackling thunder to compete in his biggest meet yet. His mother, Jerelyn, describes the rain beginning to pour down with tremendous strength just as Kevin’s name was called to finally compete.

“It was awful weather,” Kevin recalled. “It was all thunderstorms. I had to clear my mind.”

Although the conditions impeded Richardson from performing at his peak, he still cleared a 12 foot jump and finished fourth. This qualified him for a shot at the National Championship in Sacramento, CA.

That fierce competitive drive has Richardson eager to give his very best against all the other vaulters, many of whom come with years of experience in the sport that he has only recently adopted.

“I’m kind of nervous about it, just because the years’ difference is very important to the sport,” he said. “But I think I have a natural ability that I can compete with these guys who have been jumping for four, five, six plus years.”

“He’s a tremendously competitive kid,” O’Riordan said. “He is very focused on setting goals for himself and achieving them. It’s just that inner drive to be the best that he can be at what he’s put his mind towards.”

While Richardson is excited to compete against the nation’s finest, his most competitive drives are internal. His personal best jump in a meet is 12 feet, 6 inches, and he is determined to break that personal record and get a strong start to his college career.

“I would consider a successful performance to be anything over 13 feet,” Richardson said. “That’s what my college is looking for.”

Richardson hopes to keep following his passion in college. He is set to attend the Florida Institute of Technology, where he plans to study Ocean Engineering. His hope is to have a hand in designing the undersea robots used to explore shipwrecks and other nautical wonders.




From: http://homenewshere.com/wilmington_town_crier/sports/article_2cb0a3a0-4f5c-11e6-b6b7-bfbc13906f4e.html

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