TACOMA — A few moments after she rewrote history in the girls’ pole vault Friday at the Class 2A track and field championships, Burlington-Edison’s Tiffany Richeson was asked the difference between this year’s performance and her previous ones.
Richeson didn’t mention better fitness, or better gear, or a tweaked technique. She said, “This year, I started to believe in myself half as much as my coach does.”
Richeson set a Class 2A state meet record with her winning vault of 12 feet, 3 inches.
The mark was short of her school record of 12-6, but broke the previous state meet record of 12 feet, set by Heidi Dorling of Black Hills in 2007.
Later in the day Friday, Richeson placed second in the girls’ 100 hurdles in 15.55 seconds. Brooke Feldmeier of Tumwater won the race in 14.88.
This year’s state meet appearance was Richeson’s fourth in the pole vault.
She said her breakthrough came thanks to hard work with pole vault coach Robert Schmitt, as well as the coach’s belief she could be a top performer.
“When he told me I could set a record my freshman year, I thought he was crazy,” she said.
Schmitt was pretty sure he wasn’t.
“She would never believe how high I thought she could jump,” he said.
Schmitt said he’s worked with a lot of vaulters, and he saw plenty of ability in Richeson, especially when he saw how well she performed during the regular season this year despite nagging back and knee injuries.
The injuries, he said, left Richeson unable to take long runs up to her vaults. He knew when the injuries faded, she would add more height with her more effective approaches at the vault pit.
After a while, she realized it too, he said.
“It took a while for her to realize what she was capable of,” he said.
Tigers head coach Kevin Gudgel said, “For her to finally break through and win … it shows that hard work pays off, that there’s a reward at the end.”