After skating a blistering, record-breaking 37.51 seconds in her first 500-meter race, Richardson did one better, skating a 37.34 in the final heat of the competition, engraving her name into the U.S. record books.
"Hopefully my skating will just get better and better," she said with a deep breath.
That may be hard to do.
Richardson is having a banner year for U.S. long-track speedskating, earning two silver medals and one bronze in the 500-meter race on the World Cup circuit. But the 500 meters isn't even her forte. She's dominated the 1,000-meter World Cup races, earning two gold medals and one silver so far this season.
"In qualifying for World Cups, I think we just want to skate and get our technique right and hope for the best time," she said.
Richardson was oh-so-close to the 500-meter world record of 37.00. While 0.34 seconds may seem like an eternity in a sport such as speedskating, Richardson said in a race as concise as the 500, skaters must have clean starts to garner as much speed going into the first turn.
"I was able to nail a few [starts]," she said. "Those were good for me, but I hope to get better."
Finishing behind Richardson in second place was childhood friend Brittany Bowe, at 38.07, in her second race. Coming in third was Lauren Cholewinski, who skated a 38.51.
Coming into Friday's men's 500-meter race, Mitch Whitmore wanted to eclipse the 34-second mark, but came in at 35.14 in his first race en route to his 500-meter victory. Whitmore, who was on the 2010 Olympic Winter Games long-track team in Vancouver, B.C., said balancing the arduous World Cup season and coming back to race at nationals is a challenge.
"We don't quite taper as much, so that means we don't take it easy and recover," he said. "This meet is not as important as World Cup. It's tough to balance both."
Whitmore, of Waukesha, Wis., is competing on the World Cup tour in both the 500- and 1,000-meter races, but said he's yet to ascend the podium this year.
Friday's national gold medal, he said, could be the ideal step in the right direction.
"I'm working on it," he said.
U.S. Long-Track Speedskating Championships
Friday's 500-meter championships
1. Heather Richardson
2. Brittany Bowe
3. Lauren Cholewinski
1. Mitch Whitmore
2. Tucker Fredricks
3. James Cholewinski
9 a.m. • Women's 1,000
9:55 a.m. • Men's 1,000