May 23, 2012
This feature appeared in the Wednesday edition of the K-State Sports Extra.
By Mark Janssen
For sure, it’s been a unique winding path on how junior track heptathlete Richelle Farley ended up at Kansas State. But for sure, once she became a Wildcat, she’s taken the straight ultra-fast lane.
Farley is a product of Bridgetown, Barbados, who first attended Canada’s Northern Alberta Institution of Technology, but then transferred to Cowley College in Arkansas City, Kan.
“I went for basketball, but then redshirted and was asked if I wanted to do another sport,” said the 5-foot-10 Farley, who was placed at Cowley by the University of Vermont. “I was just going to do the long jump and triple jump, but a girl on the team asked me if I wanted to try the heptathlon with her, so I said, ‘Sure.’ ”
Of the seven events, Farley had only been a long jumper, so the hurdles, the runs – 200 and 800 meters – the high jump and the throws – javelin and shot put – were entirely new to her.
A quick learner, Farley became a second-team junior college indoor All-American, plus was voted the Outstanding Field Athlete at the Region VI Championship indoor and outdoor meets. She left Cowley County the owner of six school records and posted a best score of 4,676 in the heptathlon as a novice.
“She came here with very limited track experiences,” said head coach Cliff Rovelto. “She was just kind of there… really a basketball player… so she had never trained at a high level in track before.”
Farley agrees with her coach, adding, “My understanding events today is just amazing from what it was, plus my body is so much stronger. At Cowley, they just told me what to do. Here, they tell you, but also give you an understanding of what and why you’re doing things. Honestly, I had very little technical training in so many of the events.”
The improvement has been amazing as in her first heptathlon competition Farley totaled 5,077 points for a 401-point improvement, which she followed with a 5,112 performance at the recent Big 12 Championships. While finishing ninth and missing scoring by just two points, her score was high enough to rank seventh in K-State history.
Now, Farley says, “I think I can go 5,400.”
Not blinking at Farley’s goal is her coach, who points to her improvement by 0.46 seconds in her first outdoor hurdle race as a Wildcat, and a 1.27 second improvement in the 200-meters.
“She’s come a long way, but also has a tremendous upside,” said Rovelto, pointing to her 13.49 fifth-place showing in the hurdles at the Big 12 meet.
While the clocking was wind-aided, it would rank second in school history. “Honestly, her improvement in such a short amount of time is amazing.”
Farley’s competitive event PRs in the heptathlon include: 13.64 in the hurdles; 31-9½ in the shot put; 5-5 ¼ in the high jump; 18-6 in the long jump; 95-2 in the javelin, 24.25 in the 200; and, 2:30.5 in the 800.
“The jumps are my strengths and the throws are my weaknesses,” said Farley, who will compete this weekend at the NCAA West Regionals in Austin, Texas, where she hopes to qualify for nationals. “I just have very little experience in them and there’s so much to learn.”
For a comparison, Farley learning all the intricacies of the multi-events, would be like NCAA heptathlon champion Ryann Krais of the Wildcats learning how to play netball, which is big in her native country.
Flashing a smile, “That’s big in Barbados. It’s similar to basketball, but you’re not allowed to dribble. You can take two steps and then have to pass it. Then you shoot it at a basket, but it doesn’t have a backboard. (Pause) But cricket is probably the biggest sport back home.”
Back home, where she says, “I really miss it, especially in the winters.”