Illini women’s pole vaulter Richartz earns 3rd at NCAA Indoor Championships

By Alex Wallner

Stephanie Richartz accomplished yet another feat in her historic Illinois career at the NCAA Indoor Women’s Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas, over the weekend.

The senior was named first-team All-American for the second time in her career, while keeping her ranking of third out of 16 individuals and breaking her own school record.

“Being an All-American means finishing in the top eight in the country and that is definitely an accomplishment,” Richartz said. “Being a repeat All-American is an honor. It was special this year because I wasn’t fighting for a spot just in the top eight — I was fighting for a spot in the top three.”

Her mark of 4.45 meters outlasted Stephen F. Austin’s Demi Payne, who came in with the NCAA pole vault record, and Texas’ Kaitlin Petrillose, who Richartz was tied with going into the weekend.

Arkansas senior Sandi Morris won with a mark of 4.60 meters and Duke’s Megan Clark earned second, edging Richartz by five tenths of a meter. Morris and Clark both earned first-team All-American honors as well.

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“It certainly wasn’t what I expected — I came in with a slightly different plan,” Richartz said. “But plans get changed and it was a battle, but I fought pretty well so I was happy with the end result.”

Going into the weekend, head coach Ron Garner hoped that Richartz’s nerves wouldn’t get rattled. Even though that happened, Garner thought her day was a success.

“The way she competed and cleared the bars was a great example of the determination she has displayed to overcome the challenges she faced in her career,” Garner said in a press release. “She was right in the mix through the end. She gave her best effort today, and I have come to expect nothing less than that from her.”

One thing that both Richartz and pole vault coach Bryan Carrel have mastered is the art of preparation, especially preparing for the biggest meet of the season.

Carrel said that Richartz couldn’t have prepared any better during the week and that her third-place finish could have easily been fourth — especially given the competitiveness of the vaulters.

“It was a real shootout of a meet,” Carrel said. “Richartz got in there and did what she was supposed to do. It certainly wasn’t an easy way to get there, but there were a lot of jumps and a lot of misses.”

Richartz won five times during the indoor season, including one other top-five finish — the Rod McCravy Memorial Meet on Jan. 23-24 — to go along with her finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

Up next for the Illini All-American is the outdoor season, where she is a former Big Ten champion — winning in 2012 and 2013 — and was first-team All-American in 2013.

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