Natchez High track stars win gold medals
Published 12:02 am Friday, May 23, 2008
NATCHEZ — The Bulldogs track team can thank not only two of its athletes for its recent success, but also the football team.
Recently, several members of the Natchez High men’s track and field team won state championships in their respective events.
At the state meet in Clinton on the campus of Mississippi College, Rico Richardson won the triple jump and the Bulldogs’ 4×200-meters relay team, comprised of Wesley Pendleton, Jeremy Davis, Richardson and Rolando Prater, took home gold as well.
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“They were successful because they’re competitive — they compete,” Natchez High track and field head coach Larry Wesley said. They have a desire to win. I can only do so much. No matter what they do, they’re competing.”
Although Richardson took home state in the triple jump, Wesley said he’s tapping just the peak of his potential’s iceberg.
“(Rico) is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Some days he’ll have a good day, and some days he’ll drag around (at practice). He doesn’t know his full potential.
“He has great potential. The sky’s the limit for that young man if he applies himself.”
Richardson, also plays receiver, quarterback and defensive back on the gridiron at Natchez High.
“He’s a competitor. When it’s time to go after it, he’s always up for the challenge,” football coach Lance Reed said.
One athlete who was expected to take home gold in his individual event, but came up just short, was Pendleton.
The junior won the men’s 200-meters at the South State meet, but placed fourth at state.
“This was his first year,” Wesley said. “He’s just starting off. He can go way beyond his dreams.”
Despite not taking home gold at state, Pendleton was named as a candidate for the Gatorade Athlete of the Year.
“I didn’t call Gatorade, they sent me an application for him. That says something right there,” Wesley said of his junior speedster. “A lot of those relays, the reason they made the finals is because he ran the last leg on all the relays.”
What makes Pendleton’s accomplishments and recognition even more impressive is the fact this was his first year on the team.
“I saw him when he was in middle school, he ran one time (for me),” Wesley said. “I’ve been trying to get him to run ever since then, and he finally decided to run.”
With all the athletes who placed at state returning next year, Wesley expects the Bulldogs to be among the favorites to win state.
“Next year we’re going to jump out running and try to win the bling-bling,” Wesley said. “It’s always an advantage because of the experience…I think it’ll be my best chance to win state next year with all of them returning.
This year, he said that although they finished sixth, the top 15 schools were only separated by a narrow margin.
At the beginning of the year, not even Wesley could have predicted his team’s success.
“When the season started and I was putting the teams together I said lord have mercy.”
Following their meet at Southern Miss, Wesley said that’s when he could tell his athletes had a chance to be special.
“That’s when I knew we had a pretty outstanding team,” Wesley said. “They had the energy, will to win.”
SUCCESS ON THE GRIDION AND TRACK
One advantage this year’s team has had on Bulldogs teams in the past was their ability to have football players on the team.
Bulldogs head football coach Lance Reed said the decision to let his players participate on the track team was almost a no brainer.
“We have an off-season program and usually a lot of our kids, we push them to play a second sport,” Reed said. “We had a bunch on the power lifting team, baseball team, and the rest were on the track team. It keeps them competing.”
In essence, Reed says the football team and the track team help one another out, having athletes participate in multiple sports a successful system.
“I feel like track and football go hand in hand. Our off-season running program is pretty much a track workout.
“When they come back to us they’re a tad-bit faster, and when we get them we make them a tad bit stronger.”
Wesley echoes Reed’s sentiments.
“(Having football players) is a big advantage because those guys lift weights year-round and are active year-round. By participating in track, I know one thing, (the football team) is going to be fast next year.”