Longhorn Hall of Honor: Sandie Richards
Nov. 7, 2012
Dalton Pool, Texas Media Relations
Sandie Richards, a NCAA Champion, World Champion, Olympic medalist and humanitarian, will be inducted into The University of Texas Women’s Hall of Honor on Friday, Nov. 9. Born in Clarendon Park, Jamaica, she started running at the age of nine and hasn’t stopped since.
Richards first came onto the international scene in 1984, when she won gold in the 400 meters of the CAC Junior Championship at just 16 years of age. She found her way to San Jacinto Junior College (1988-89), where she set the national Junior College record in the 400 meters.
Richards then transferred to Texas and, in her two seasons in Austin, helped lead the Longhorns to three Top Two team finishes at the NCAA Championships, including the 1990 Indoor national title. As a junior in 1990, Richards paced UT to the NCAA Indoor Championship with a second-place individual performance in the 400 meters while running the anchor leg on the NCAA Champion 4x400-meter relay (which set a then-world record with a time of 3:32.01).
During her senior season in 1991, Richards paced Texas to a second-place showing at the NCAA Indoor Championship by placing third in the 400 meters and helping the 4x400-meter relay to a second-place finish. She then led the Longhorns to a second-place showing at the NCAA Outdoor Championship, finishing second in the 400 meters and helping the 4x400-meter relay to a third-place finish. Richards also excelled at the conference level during her career, winning four league individual titles and three conference relay crowns.
Of all of her collegiate accomplishments, Richards will always be most proud of her relay team’s record setting performance.
“University running is a lot more team-oriented than professional or Olympic running, where it is more about the individual and competing for your country,” Richards said. “That’s why our record-setting relay team will always be my favorite memory of competing at UT. It was truly a team victory.”
She graduated from The University of Texas in 1991 with a degree in Sociology. In addition to her achievements at the collegiate level, Richards had a very successful professional career while competing on the international stage. Representing her home nation of Jamaica, she competed in five Olympic Games (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004) and claimed two medals as a member of the 4x400-meter relay, earning silver in 2000 and bronze in 2004. Richards also is a three-time World Champion, claiming gold in the 400 meters at the 1993 and 2001 World Indoor Championship and running on the winning 4x400-meter relay team at the 2001 World Outdoor Championship.
“It is hard to compare Olympic experiences because it is always so special to compete for your country. Making the finals in 1992 in Barcelona will always stand out to me, just because it was the first time I accomplished that.” Richards said.
However, her proudest professional performance came when she broke the 50-second mark for the first time and ran a personal best 49.79 at the 1997 World Championships in Athens, Greece. Richards finished second in the race to Australian Cathy Freeman, but still describes it as her “perfect” race, because it was the best she could have possibly run.
“Track is such an individual sport that requires hard work, commitment and focus over a long period of time,” said Richards. “I had trained so hard for that race, and my goal was to break 50 seconds and I did it. Even though I lost, I had never been more proud.”
Richards’ accolades don’t stop at the track though. She was an active community service participant throughout her collegiate career, mentoring academically-challenged children. Richards was named Jamaica's Sportswoman of the Year in 1998, and received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government in 2002 for outstanding and important services to the country.
Richards continues to provide and distribute clothing and shoes to young children in Jamaica. She remains active as a track and field coach while also designing a new track and field stadium for up-and-coming Jamaican athletes in her hometown.
“The people of Jamaica have given me so much over my career,” explained Richards. “They have given me inspiration, encouragement and hope, so it is only natural that I give back.”
Richards currently works as a physical therapist for a family-owned business and resides in Austin.
She has represented The University of Texas with class, courage and compassion both on and off the track throughout her life, and she epitomizes what it means to be Longhorn.
“This is truly an outstanding honor,” said Richards. “I am humbled to be part of such an outstanding class.”