Speedskating • North Carolina native conquers 1,500 meters.
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Kearns • Two years ago, Heather Richardson went into a 1,500-meter World Cup race at the Utah Olympic Oval salivating at the idea of setting a new national record.
The ice was "super fast that day," she said, but she came up three-hundredths of a second short.
"I gave it everything I had," she said.
But Sunday morning in Kearns, the 23-year-old North Carolina native accomplished what she set out to do two years ago, setting a new United States record in the women's 1,500-meter race at the U.S. Long-Track Speedskating Championships. Her time of 1 minute, 53.84 seconds eclipsed Jennifer Rodriguez's record 1:54.19 set on Dec. 12, 2009.
It's been a career-defining weekend for Richardson, who has set national records in three consecutive race days: the 500 meters Friday, 1,000 meters Saturday and the 1,500 meters Sunday.
"Today I wasn't trying, and I think that helped a lot," she said. "When you have no pressure and you just want to have fun, I think that works the best."
Now, Richardson is the fastest American female long-track speedskater in those three respective events in the history of the U.S. Speedskating. She said the 1,500-meter is a different beast compared to the other sprint races in long track because of just how long the skaters must push themselves.
"It's a mental race, it really is," she said. "It's really hard to sprint that long, so I just wanted to focus on my technique."
Following her 1,000-meter record-setting day Saturday morning, Richardson found herself leaning over a trash can heaving out the contents of her stomach.
When Sunday morning rolled around, she was more prepared. She popped a piece of gum into her mouth and gracefully apologized to reporters.
"I just didn't want to do what I did yesterday," she said, chuckling.
During the first couple laps of her third record-setting race in three days, Richardson questioned whether or not her legs would hold up for the entire 1,500 meters. Each time she excelled, she said, her legs would get a bit heavier, but she pushed through.
"I didn't hit the wall," she said.
Just powered through it.
Finishing behind Richardson for the third-straight day was Brittany Bowe, who won silver in the women's 1,500 meters. Anna Ringsred finished third with the bronze.
Sunday morning was also a day to remember for Brian Hansen, the 22-year-old from Glenview, Ill., who won the men's 1,500 meters, defeating teammate and long-track icon Shani Davis.
"He is someone I've always looked up to, and beating him is a big accomplishment for me," Hansen said.
Hansen's winning time of 1:44.96 came in the final heat of the competition after he watched Davis put down a 1:46.65 in the 11th of 12 1,500-meter heats.
Sunday's gold medal, Hansen said, is his first ever in the 1,500.
"I'm a good sprinter," he said, "but I'm also good at endurance. I can hold a fast speed for a long time."
Monday will be the final day of the U.S. Long-Track Speedskating Championships and will feature the women's 5,000 meters and the men's 10,000 meters. The national all-around long-track champion (men's and women's) will be named following the races Monday, as well as the long-track winter World Cup team.
U.S. Long-Track Speedskating Championships
Women's 1,500-meter results
1. Heather Richardson
2. Brittany Bowe
3. Anna Ringsred
Men's 1,500-meter results
1. Brian Hansen
2. Shani Davis
3. Joey Mantia Monday's schedule
Women's 5,000 meters • 9 a.m.
Men's 10,000 meters • 10 a.m.