By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
FORMER HICKORY HIGH standout Morgan Richards enjoyed a successful spring season for the University of North Carolina-Charlotte track & field team. The female 49ters won the Atlantic 10 Conference outdoor track & field team title.
“Morgan kept her stride as she transitioned into the outdoor season, running top times in several events among (Atlantic 10) freshmen and on Charlotte’s all-time top 10 lists,” assistant coch Edwin T. Schlichter wrote in a recent e-mail to The Herald. “Morgan finished just one spot (9th) out of scoring at the 2013 A-10 Championships in the 3000-meter steeplechase, despite this being her first year ever attempting the event, and running 11:02.22 which was 2nd among all freshmen in the A-10 and 5th all-time for UNC-Charlotte.”
Continued Schlichter, “Her time of 4:35 in the 1500 meters led all A-10 freshmen, and is currently 8th on the all-time UNC-Charlotte list.
Among Morgan’s other milestones, Schlichter noted, were: 2000-meter steeplechase and “her flat 3000-meter times. In her only time of running both events she ran the 3rd- and 9th-fastest times in school history. Her 2-K steeple time (7:08.91) and her flat 3-K time (10:06.67) put her on a total of 4 top 10 lists in different events for the UNC-Charlotte women’s program ... which is extremely impressive, given that this is only her first year with the 49ers.”
According to Schlichter, Richards has qualified for the 1500- and 3000-meter runs and 3000-meter steeplechase at the upcoming USA Track & Field Junior National Championships, slated for Des Moines, Ia.
“To qualify,” Schlichter wrote, “athletes must meet not only strict times, but may not turn 20 years of age in the year of the championships. ... (This is) a very outstanding accomplishment for a first-year college freshmen. She will toe the line with the nation’s best under-20-year-olds and have the opportunity to make Team USA’s junior national team that will compete in the Pan Am Games later this summer in Columbia, South America.”
This past winter Richards finished 4th in the mile (5:01.30, which converts to a 4:48.35 for running on what Schlichter termed, a “flat track as opposed to the banked indoor track”) at the A-10 Indoor Championships. She also anchored the 49ers’ distance-medley relay to a 6th-place showing as the ’Niners captured the A-10 crown.
Richards also raced to the fastest times of all A-10 freshmen in the mile and 3000-meter run (10:08.26), and also was part of the distance-medley quartet that posted an 11:57.93 performance, 10th in all-time UNC-Charlotte annals.
“As a coach,” Schlichter concluded, “I have been extremely thrilled and proud of Morgan’s freshman year. I knew she was an extremely talented runner when we recruited her, but she has gone beyond expectations as a freshman, and her ceiling is still extremely high.
“Her combination of great speed and endurance has her poised to be great in nearly any event. The hard part will be narrowing her on a focus because she is just so good at everything. She is truly one of those athletes that are dream to work with, highly motivated and passionate about being the best she be.
“She has all the skills and talent needed to re-write our record books and become one of the greatest to come through our program when it is all said done. I’m very glad that we have another three years to look forward to with such an outstanding young woman.”
Richards’ Hickory High coaches were Tony Mastrian, Mark Slezak and Barb Dzuricsko.