WARSAW – May is a time when track athletes set themselves apart. June is when the special athletes set themselves apart from the rest. If May was any indication, Audrey Rich could have herself quite a June to remember.
While Rich won’t enter the IHSAA Girls Track State Finals this Friday as a top seed, or even a top-five seed, she has already had a special season. Rich and her Warsaw teammates haven’t been accustomed to losing much this season, rolling through the Northern Lakes Conference, Warsaw Sectional and Kokomo Regional as team champions. In that span, Rich earned five individual titles and was part of the 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams that won titles.
In all, Rich’s name has been attached to 10 championship runs since the NLC meet in early May. And talking with the speedy senior, you wouldn’t know that she even breaks a sweat, much less sets the pace.
“It’s really just the training that we do,” Rich said of her exploits. “It’s about finishing for me. I see the finish line as a goal, and I want to achieve those goals I’ve set. I’ve just let my abilities take me where I’ve gone.”
Rich’s run in the regional championships was something to behold. Going out and winning the 100-meter dash championship in a bang-bang finish over South Bend Adams’ Ariel Green at 12.59. Rich’s day was just beginning.
Rich came back to anchor the Warsaw team to state in the 400 relay, taking second place in what has been the only non-title on Rich’s résumé this tournament season. Rich then stamped another title in the 200-meter dash at 25.60 and closed out the meet – and Warsaw’s fifth straight regional team title – with a 3:58.58 championship anchor in the 1,600 relay.
Taking a moment to sit on the bench propped near the finish line at Kokomo, Rich just needed a moment while the reality of yet another banner performance was setting in.
“She had a day we needed her to have,” stated Warsaw head coach Scott Erba at Kokomo. “It’s kind of been a four-year building process. If we put her through the same onslaught of events as a freshman or sophomore, she wouldn’t have been able to do it. But, having the experience and the strength she has, to come back and be a regional 100 and 200 champion and anchor with a 57, her best time, in a high-pressure situation. That’s an incredible night.”
Preferring to defer to team success, Rich wasn’t all that interested in boasting about her accomplishments immediately after the regional.
It should be noted that Rich isn’t just talented on the track, but is also part of Warsaw choir, and takes it serious enough that she’ll pass on track glory for a chance to perform with her other ‘team’. This was evident at the NLC meet, where she won the 100 and 4×100 relay, then sprinted to the school to sing while the 200 – an event she likely would have won as well – was held. Rich finished her vocals, then used that speed to get back to the track to run a 58.8 split in the 4×400 relay, collecting a third title.
At the state finals this weekend, Rich will likely meet her match, but it should be fun to see how she stacks up. Seeded 13th in the 100, her 12.59 time isn’t anywhere close to what Lynna Irby of Pike is bringing in at a mind-boggling 11.78. Irby is the current finals record holder at 11.50, set last year. Rich scratched from the 200, despite having what would be the seventh-best time heading into the state finals.
Going in, the Warsaw 4×100 is seeded 14th and 4×400 is seeded 10th.
“Between the 100 and the 200, I love both races. But I ran the 200 (at state) last year so I opted for the 100 this year,” Rich said. “I just wanted to focus a little bit more on the relays because it is such a team thing. Which is what interests me more.”
Rich’s legacy won’t be decided this weekend. She already has her name on the WCHS track record board on the ‘S’ Building on campus as part of the 2015 4×100 relay (47.62), 4×400 relay (3:58.00) and has reset the 200 record three times this year, breaking her own mark with a best time of 25.44 at the sectional. The 100 record is currently held by Karrie Burch, who ran a 12.30 in 2007.