By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MURFREESBORO — Accompanied by her coaches Adrian Smith and T. Taylor, Kendra Richardson was walking from the Class 3A State High Jump area getting ready for the medal stand.
As she walked in front of the Dean A. Hayes Stadium crowd in Murfreesboro, a man in black and gold of Memphis Mitchell High School shouted, ‘Where are you from?’
Richardson, in front of her two young teammates Leslie Valembrun and Destinie Green, replied with a smile, ‘Millington Central.’
Richardson was proud to wear the black and gold of Millington and carry the ‘M’ to State for the Lady Trojans. But before she made her first attempt last Thursday morning, the heart beating underneath the Millington jersey was moving faster than usual.
“I was nervous, very nervous,” Richardson acknowledged. “But I was just glad I made it. I still can’t believe I made it. I’m just proud of myself that I made it this far. And I still got a medal so I’m just happy.”
To start the 2013 competition, all 16 competitors had to clear 4 feet, 8 inches.
“It made me feel like, ‘Hey you got this,’” Richardson said. “This is just any other high jump. You cleared it.’”
Richardson cleared that height and 4’10 with ease. Then for her third run of the day, Richardson cleared 5 feet, the mark she hit to reach State.
But the height of 5 feet and 2 inches presented a challenge she couldn’t overcome. Richardson finished sixth earning a medal. Ridgeway’s Darraugh May brought a silver back to Shelby County. Northeast’s Briana Kelly was the winner hitting a jump of 5 feet, 6 inches.
Richardson said she came to Murfreesboro to win it all but she’s glad to get the Lady Trojans to the medal stand and make her coaches proud.
“They’re very supportive,” the junior said. “They wanted me to come back with the win but any medal is good enough. And they’re very proud of me to make it this far. I thought I was going to State. They told me, ‘You’re going to State.’
“I’m so glad they were behind me the whole way,” Richardson added. “Even my teammates were behind me 100 percent. I’m so grateful for them coming up here to support me.”
Coach Taylor wanted to take full advantage of Richardson’s accomplishment by inviting some of the younger Lady Trojans along for the trip. Valembrun will be a senior next season in the 200m, high jump and 4x200m. Green will be a sophomore sprinter in the 4x100m and 4x200m.
Smith and Taylor said Richardson set a good example for her teammates and made Millington proud by reaching the podium.
Now the incoming senior said the taste of success will motivate her to do even more.
“This experience has taught me to work harder,” she concluded. “We’re going to work harder, knock some time off, get the speed up and just keep at it and come back here in more events than just the high jump.”