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, as she described, “super fast that day,” but she came up three-hundredths of a second short.
“I gave it everything I had,” she said.
But on Sunday 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 mark of 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 meters is a different beast comparatively 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 Saturday morning, Richardson found herself leaning over a trash can heaving out whatever contents were left in 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-meter race. 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-meter race, 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-meter race and the men’s 10,000-meter race. The national all-around long-track champion (men’s and women’s) will be named following the races as well as the long track winter World Cup team.
U.S. Long-Track Speedskating Championships
1. Heather Richardson
2. Brittany Bowe
3. Anna Ringsred
1. Brian Hansen
2. Shani Davis
3. Joey Mantia
9 a.m. • Women’s 5,000
10 a.m. • Men’s 10,000