Feb. 5, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa — D’Juan Richardson must not have received the memo that it takes time for first-year college students to acclimate in the classroom. He also must have missed the note that says freshmen athletes are supposed to gradually — over a four-year period — make an impact on their team.
Richardson is a freshman sprinter and hurdler for the University of Iowa men’s track and field program. During his first academic semester he compiled a grade-point average higher than 3.40. During his first two track meets, he won four events and placed second twice.
“This is what I’ve been used to,” Richardson said. “I’ve always gotten good grades, so I’m used to doing all the work I need in order to get them. I’ve always been able to train hard, too.”
“He had a terrific semester academically and did an outstanding job in the classroom,” UI head coach Larry Wieczorek said. “That’s job 1. On the track, he continues to put out performances that set the pace for our team.”
The beginning of his collegiate training was delayed five weeks until Richardson was cleared medically because of high blood pressure.
“He had a terrific semester academically and did an outstanding job in the classroom. That’s job 1. On the track, he continues to put out performances that set the pace for our team.”
UI head men’s coach
“I had to work even harder,” Richardson said. “I had to not only catch up, but then I needed to be where the rest of my teammates were by the time the season actually started. That made me work harder and I think that helped me be as successful as I have been.”
During a 92-77 dual victory against Illinois on Jan. 10, Richardson won the 60-meter hurdles (8.33) and the 200 dash (21.95) and finished second in the 60 dash (6.96). The following weekend at the Iowa Open, Richardson again won the 60 hurdles (8.20) and the 200 (21.84) and was runner-up in the 60 (6.8673). On Jan. 23 at the Razorback Invitational, he placed sixth in the 60 hurdles (8.21) and was fifth in the consolation race of the 60 (6.88). Both of those clockings were 0.01 seconds off a personal best. Richardson was also 23rd in the 200 (22.34).
“I was really nervous the first meet,” Richardson said. “I wasn’t used to sprinting in an open event and I was nervous about the hurdles, because it was my first time racing against other people at that height (42 inches in college, a 3-inch increase over high school). I was happy with my times and the next week I improved, so things are working out great.”
At Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, Richardson won three state championships in the one-class Indiana State Meet — 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 4×100 relay. He was a 13-time all-state performer. The Warriors won two consecutive state track and field championships (2006-07) and during Richardson’s junior year, he ran a 200 leg on a sprint medley relay team (200-200-400-800) that turned in the seventh-fastest time in U.S. history.
Richardson also competed in cross country as a freshman and sophomore, despite pleas from football players, who would have loved to have had him as a running back or receiver.
“I felt that cross country would be good conditioning, because I wanted more endurance for when I ran the 300 hurdles,” Richardson said. “I didn’t want to get injured playing football and I needed cross country for conditioning.”
Richardson was also a cross country manager, a volunteer task that did not go unnoticed in his community.
“The University of Iowa is known for its great hospital and I wanted to go to a school that had that because I wanted to get into something medical. I’m looking to go into something for sports medicine, so that’s partially the reason I came here. Another reason is that hurdle coach Joey Woody is amazing — he was a professional athlete, so I wanted to have a coach who has been where I eventually want to be. Having him as a coach is beneficial.”
“D’Juan won a lot of respect for his character and leadership not only in his school, but also in the state of Indiana,” Wieczorek said.
If Hawkeye fans are familiar with Warren Central, it could be because Richardson was a high school classmate of UI running back Jewel Hampton, who gained 463 rushing yards with seven touchdowns last fall.
“We both knew we were looking at Iowa,” Richardson said. “We were pretty excited about it. Now I see him every once in awhile in the hallway, but we’re both pretty busy so we don’t see each other as often as we used to.”
Richardson is majoring in integrative physiology and eventually wants to enter a medical profession.
“The University of Iowa is known for its great hospital and I wanted to go to a school that had that because I wanted to get into something medical,” he said. “I’m looking to go into something for sports medicine, so that’s partially the reason I came here. Another reason is that hurdle coach Joey Woody is amazing — he was a professional athlete, so I wanted to have a coach who has been where I eventually want to be. Having him as a coach is beneficial.”
It will be a homecoming of sorts for Richardson on Feb 6-7 when the Hawkeyes compete at Notre Dame’s Meyo Invitational. Richardson said his mother, sister and some friends will make the trip to watch him perform. They will also see a rapidly improving UI men’s track and field team that boasts 17 true or redshirt freshmen.
“A lot of people are starting to step up,” Richardson said. “We had a lot of people come in who had high marks in high school and they’re expected to help the team a lot. When you work out with somebody who is working hard, it’s only going to make you better. That’s partially the reason why everybody’s been improving.”
Although this is his first season of collegiate track, Richardson said he has seen himself grow as a competitor through more efficient form and an improved work ethic. His individual mission is to qualify for the finals of the Big Ten Championships, advance to the NCAA National meet and etch his name in the Hawkeye Top 10 leader boards. During the outdoor phase of the season, Richardson expects to compete in the 110 hurdles, 100 and 200 dashes and the 4×100 relay.
“I had a lot of high hopes for D’Juan coming in and he’s surpassed what my expectations were for him,” Woody said. “You couldn’t ask for a harder worker and a role model for other guys on the team. As a freshman, he’s come in and done a great job.”
For a student-athlete seemingly mature beyond his 19 years, Richardson offers this motivational nugget for other aspiring collegiate runners.
“Don’t get too caught up in the moment,” he said. “You’re going to be surrounded by a lot of good people, so don’t get overwhelmed by everything. Remember to stay relaxed and compete to your best.”