Iowa sprinter willing to do it all to win

BY TORK MASON | APRIL 20, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa senior Patrick Richards learned a lesson on a cold Colorado afternoon that he now applies each day for the men's track team.

Richards — a three-time All-American for the Hawkeyes in the 4x400 relay who has earned a reputation for being a versatile and dependable athlete — was anchoring the Widefield High 4x400 team and wanted to stay warm as long as possible before getting on the track.

"It was freezing cold," he said. "I waited for my friend to get to the 200-[meter] mark before I started taking my sweats off."

But his spikes caught in the legs of his pants, and he couldn't get them off. So he pulled up his pants and lined up to run in his sweats until he was told that was illegal. An official tried to help him get his pants off, but Richards lost something every runner needs.

"He tried to help me and pulled really hard, and pulled my pants off — but pulled my shoes and socks off at the same time," he said. "[That's when] my friend hit the exchange zone, so I had to jump on the track and just go with it."

Richards — a Daily Iowan employee — said the first 50 meters were "terrible," but his feet were so cold after that point that he couldn't feel the loose spikes and rocks scattered around the track. He went on to win the race running barefoot, and he said the experience taught him a valuable lesson.

"Win by any means necessary," he said. "You've got to do what you've got to do when the time comes."

That mantra, and his willingness to step into any role to help the team, has come to define his career in the Black and Gold.

"He's more than just a utility guy, but he's a guy who can do anything," assistant coach Joey Woody said. "He has scored in every event he has been entered in at the Big Ten meet, except maybe one time. When you have a guy like that who steps up in the big meets, that's big."

Head coach Larry Wieczorek said having star athletes he can count on in numerous events is critical for a team to be successful.

But Richards had more to learn when he reached Iowa City, even after all the work he put in during his high-school career.

D'Juan Richardson — Richards' freshman roommate and fellow sprinter — said his friend used to struggle with applying new concepts and techniques, but he has since grown into someone who can make changes easily.

Richards says his occasionally slow learning curve was self-imposed.

"When I was younger, I was a little arrogant, hard-headed," he said. "In high school, I had a plan for what I wanted to do, like, 'I'm going to do this, this, and this.' But then somebody might say, 'Well, you've got to do this.' And I would be like, 'I've got a plan, and I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing.' But I've matured a little."

Wieczorek said he's not so sure of that.

"He's still a little hard-headed, but I figure I've got a few more weeks to get through to him — it's not a finished product," he said and laughed. "But sometimes, good athletes can be a little hard-headed. Maybe that's why they're good. And gradually, as people mature, they learn, 'Hey, maybe I can learn a thing or two, and even be better.'

"And Patrick is pretty open to learning and getting better."

Follow DI men's track reporter Tork Mason on Twitter.

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