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Richards runs mom-and-pop operation.

Byline: PREFONTAINE CLASSIC By Bob Rodman The Register-Guard

Sanya Richards, like most professional track and field athletes, has an agent.

Unlike those others, however, Richards' agent is her mother, giving still another meaning to the phrase, "Momma said there would be days like this."

The days have been good. Very good.

"It's amazing and it's a blessing," said the 21-year-old Richards, ranked No. 1 among the world's female 400-meter runners by the International Association of Athletics Federations and Track & Field News.

"Both my mom and my dad help me. My career is so personal. I have all these goals, and they have always been such a vital part of my career. It's a natural fit for them."

But not, it seems, for very many others.

"I'm not aware of any other parents being agents for their children, not in track and field," said Sharon Richards, who has doubled as mom and agent for her daughter since January. "It's way outside of the norm, I guess.

"We are very hands-on with her career. Nobody knows her better than we do. We've been an integral part of her track career since she was 7 years old.

"My husband and I travel just about everywhere with Sanya. Her support system is always close by. We have learned who all the players are and how the game is played on the inside.

"We expected there would be a few bumps and bruises along the way. Sometimes we've not been taken seriously as her agent. We've have a few bumps but no bruises."

This could be a screaming example of whatever works.

"The truth is, a lot hasn't changed," said Sanya Richards, who looms as the athlete to beat in the 400 at Sunday's Prefontaine Classic track and field meet, an IAAF Grand Prix event at Hayward Field that is scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. start.

"The role of parent takes precedence over all other roles. They have my best interest at heart in everything, and the agent thing is secondary."

Sharon Richards did not have to look far to locate a talented client.

Sanya Richards has rocked the sprint world since her days as a teenager from Jamaica, including her first stop at the Pre Classic in 2002 as a 17-year-old.

She finished second in the 400. Seldom has she finished second since.

Crushing records on a continual basis but not getting credit for her efforts because she was not a United States citizen, Richards became an American in 2003, the same year she won the USA and NCAA 400 titles competing for the University of Texas.

In 2004, Richards became an Olympic gold medalist for her work on the U.S. 4x400 relay team. In 2005, the party resumed when she won the 400 at nationals, was the outdoor Visa Championship Series winner and became the second-fastest American in history and youngest woman to run under 49 seconds.

That performance - 48.92 - came at the Weltklasse meet in Zurich, Switzerland, as she sped past world and Olympic champion Tonique Williams-Darling of the Bahamas.

"There is a lot left to do, a lot left to accomplish," said Richards, who attends Texas in the fall as she pursues a degree in management information systems and trains in the spring at Waco, Texas, the home of her coach, Baylor University coach Clyde Hart.

"I ran 48 seconds only one time last year," Richards said. `I want to get consistent at 48. This is just the start."

Among her goals is the American record of 48.83, set 22 years ago by Valerie Brisco.

"I believe the American record is 100 percent within my grasp," Richards said. "I should be able to go under 48.8. The world record (47.60 by Marita Koch of East Germany in 1985) is another story. I need to get a lot stronger for that second 200."

A powerful Pre Classic 400 field should generate a high-speed race if not a record one.

Richards' challengers are numerous. The field includes four of the five top-ranked 400 runners in the world.

Track & Field News has Ana Guevara - who set the Hayward Field and Pre Classic record of 49.34 in 2003 - ranked at No. 3, Dee Dee Trotter at No. 4 and Christine Amertil of Bahamas at No. 5.

"It's a great field," said Richards, who recorded a personal record of 22.42 in the 200 last week at the adidas Track Classic in Carson, Calif. "That kind of field brings out the best. This is a big year for me. I want to go undefeated."

"There is nothing personal about it," Richards said of highly competitive lineup. "Every time I meet up with them, I have to be on top of my game. They have heightened my desire to be at my best all of the time."

CAPTION(S):

Sanya Richards, 21, became the youngest woman to run faster than 49 seconds in the 400 last year.
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Title Annotation:Sports; The sprinter's parents have guided her to the top ranking in the 400
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 26, 2006
Words:828
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