Jillian Richardson Places 9th at Nationals, Breaks School Record


At the NCAA DIII indoor track and field championship last weekend in Birmingham, Alabama, senior captain Jillian Richardson finished 9th in the country and etched her name into the annals of Bobcat history by breaking the school record in the 3,000 meter-run. With a time of 9:37.73, Richardson bested the record held by Jessica Wilson ‘17 by nearly six seconds. She described the event as being a fun-albeit-nerve wracking experience.

“Um, I was so nervous, because they kind of corral you out [to the track]. Like, you have to like, wait, and then they bring you all out. So it’s just like nerve racking. So I was just trying to stay calm, but it was cool. There was a woman that had run that had won the 5k and then also a woman that had won the mile were in the race with me, so I already knew it was gonna be a pretty fast race,” Richardson said. “Yeah, but it was definitely fun. I was hoping to at least get like a PR, so I was happy to do that. And before then I had been like, one second off from breaking the record. I was hoping I’d be able to do it, and it was cool to be able to do that and just run with some amazing competitors.”

This accomplishment has been a long time in the making for the Auburn, Maine native. Richardson was homeschooled throughout her adolescence, though she cited her five older siblings for helping her get into running.

Richardson was still able to run cross country and track competitively for Edward Little High School, where her passion for running only grew.

“I think it was good that once I joined in, everybody was very nice and I got along really well with all of them. It was definitely a good community since I didn’t have as many friends as other high schoolers from being homeschooled,” Richardson said.

When it was time to look at colleges, Richardson, who holds the Edward Little records in just about every distance event, knew she wanted to stay in the area. She looked at all of the NESCACs in Maine, but ultimately decided on Bates.

“When I took my tour here, I felt like I vibed with the people here the most. They’re the most welcoming and the coaches here were really good at communicating with me too,” she said.

Richardson said that while the transition from homeschool to Bates was difficult in some facets, it was mostly manageable.

“Academically, I would say the biggest change was just like, obviously, here at Bates, there’s a lot of group discussions and things like that and also the fact that I’d never really taken like a big final exam before. That was the biggest thing for me but also, obviously, just being around so many people in a day to day situation was new for me,” she said. “And yeah, that’s really it. But I feel like it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was gonna be to transition.”

Danny Feldman, the head coach of the cross country programs and the distance coach for the track team, said that Richardson has adapted well into her role as team captain.

“Yeah, it’s funny, I actually spoke to her parents when we were down in Alabama [about this]. Like you said, the transition from homeschooling to now where she’s a captain in my mind of not just the 30 women on the team, but also for cross country, and then also the 100 people on track and field. It’s a massive undertaking, but she’s somebody that I think operates with a quiet confidence, which I think is noticed by everybody. But the moment she opens her mouth, everybody shuts up and listens,” he said.

Feldman pointed to her metronomic work ethic as helping her progress to this level of success.

“I think she’s good at minimizing distractions, and we’ve talked about controlling the controllables,” he said, adding that, “So that’s sleep, diet, hydration, attitude, time management, stress management. And she’s like a metronome with making sure all those things are in order so that she can train at the highest level, like she’s been running 50 miles a week for almost six months.”

Richardson said that she’s proud of the progress that she’s made over the past four years on the track.

“I think I’ve definitely progressed quite a bit, especially with being more confident. Like when I’m entering a race, just kind of having the confidence that I’m gonna be able to do what I want in the race, you know what I mean? Timewise, last year, the best 3k I ran was like, a 9:59 and I chopped off 22 seconds from last year,” she said.

While Richardson had appeared at nationals twice for cross country (with two All-American selections to show for it), she had not gone for track until this year. This time, however, she was the Bobcat to appear at nationals

“It was definitely a different vibe than cross country. Since I was the only person from the team there, that was different just being there with the two coaches. But it was so fun in its own way,” she said.

While Richardson missed out on All-American honors by one spot, Feldman said that her performance was certainly deserving of those honors.

“Any other year, the time that she ran would have been usually like top three in the country.”

This year, according to Feldman, was especially stacked in the 3,000 meter event, and he added some context about how historical Richardson’s finish was.

“So every woman in front of her had times that were top 30 all the time in Division III history. So she was competing truly against other women that were like the best in all historical data,” he said, adding that, “You need to look a little bit deeper to understand how impressive her performance was. 

From homeschool to the captaincy and a record-breaking performance at nationals, Richardson’s career arc has been rather inspiring, Feldman said.

“She is giving me the opportunity to say to any kids that are local, or from the state of Maine, that you can continue your dreams of being an incredible runner, staying in the great state of Maine while getting a world class education.

Richardson’s trajectory, as attributed to her paramount work ethic, consistent work ethic and quiet confidence, is also a banner that the team can hang up for motivation.

“I think she’s also going to inspire the current kids on the team, right,” Feldman said. “Because I’m a believer that if you put your mind to anything, you can do it. And Jill’s now gone from cross country nationals where she was a top 25 finisher to indoor nationals [where she finished 9th].”

Finally, Feldman thinks that her attitude towards the sport and the team will give future members of Bates track and field the inspiration to carve their own paths.

“I think her lasting impact is like that no one messes with her. Like, she is somebody that’s willing to roll against anybody. I’m hoping she’s the start of even bigger things to come [for the program].”