Jillian Richardson, running for Edward Little, charges down a straightaway near the end of the Class A Maine State Cross Country Championships in Belfast last season. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — Jillian Richardson is one of the top cross country runners in Class A despite — or perhaps because she’s had three different coaches in three seasons.
Dan Campbell coached the Edward Little squad in 2015 before leaving for the University of Maine at Farmington. Justin Richardson — Jillian’s brother and a former St. Dominic Academy standout — took over in 2016.
“It was obviously really fun with Justin, but it’s different (now),” Richardson said. “It’s still the same team dynamic, but there have been different coaches and so some different workouts.”
This season, Richardson is under the direction of head coach Ryan Getchell, along with holdover assistant coach Jamie Theriault.
“I think her brother coaching last year kind of broke her out of her shell a little bit and brought out some of that competitiveness,” Getchell said. “When your older brother is telling you to do something, sometimes you want to ignore them. For her, it was the exact opposite. As far as the transition has gone, I think it’s gone well.”
Richardson has seen major improvements over the course of the 2017 season. In one of the first meets of the year, Richardson won at Leavitt High School with a time of 19:39, a personal record at the time.
At the Festival of Champions, the Red Eddies junior ran a PR of 19:20, finishing 21st overall in the biggest race of the year. A lot of this year’s success for Richardson could be tethered to her recent time in the weight room, which was orchestrated by her other brother, Jeremy.
“I did outdoor track and coach Theriault gave me a schedule to do over the summer so that was really helpful,” Richardson said. “My brother, Jeremy, who is really into weightlifting, gave me a summer schedule.”
Getchell has also seen the improvement brought on by Richardson adding weight lifting to her training regiment.
“Her work ethic is second to none,” Getchell said. “She also works really hard outside of practice. Jill went from just running the past couple years to running and lifting. To see how that helped her, she even said her times are better this year, certain workouts were easier because she hit the weight room.”
The youngest of six kids, Richardson can always rely on her family for support in all aspects of her running. Her parents are present at almost every meet and even help her scout her next competition.
“Justin was the big runner but everybody is really supportive so it’s so good,” Richardson said. “They all come to my races when they can so it makes it fun. My parents go to a lot of them. It’s really helpful that they care about it, so I just want to do well so I can make them proud.”
Last Saturday, Richardson ran at the Class A North regionals in Belfast, and placed fifth with a time of 19:54. Later in the weekend Richardson’s parents brought her to Twin Brook, the site of the south regionals and the Class A state meet, so she could get a feel for the course, to which she hasn’t been since her freshman year.
“I always make sure I refresh my memory with the course,” Richardson said. “I’ve pretty much been to all the courses now. Usually it’s my mom and dad that will look up who’s going to be there and to help me to know what kind of competition I have.”
All of this preparation has led to Richardson’s best year, and the fast times have given the junior confidence heading into indoor and outdoor track.
“I’ve felt really good,” Richardson said. “It’s definitely been a good season. I feel like this season has been my biggest step forward for PR’s and I feel like I’ve been more consistent.”
While Richardson is home schooled, her relationship with teammates is as strong as any on the Red Eddies’ team.
“I feel like the team are all my friends,” Richardson said. “I don’t see them at school, but I see them there so it’s cool that I get to be friends with people that go here.”
“They all have fun together and they all get along really well,” Getchell said. “She’s the girl that gets everyone together to do what they need to do and she brings everybody up, too.”