I have to say, I was in the house that Phil and Penny built, the new Hayward Field and I loved the 49th Nike Pre Classic. I loved the 100 meters dominated by Sha’Carri Richardson and her reception by the fans, who love her and enjoy her during and after her races! Deji did this wonderful piece on one of the fine women’s track and field athletes that we are featuring today.  

Thanks, Deji Ogeyinbgo!

Sha’Carri Richardson shows her rivals— and the athletics world — that she is number one.

Relief.

If you are to sum up Sha’Carri Richardson’s performance in her first 100m race at the Prefontaine Classic, don’t look further. The reigning world champion was still out granting interviews and celebrating after her win in which she ran a season’s best of 10.83s, taking down a star-studded field in the process. She savored every moment of that, knowing fully well it took the pressure off her back. Not that she hadn’t handled pressure very well before. This was different.

Richardson has had mixed fortunes on this track. Not that she hadn’t won here before, but the fact that one of the most humiliating losses of her career came three years ago at the Hayward Field in Eugene. Shortly after she missed the Tokyo Olympics, the 24-year-old fluffed her chance at instant redemption as she fell to the then newly-minted double Olympic Champion, Elaine Thompson-Herah.

Warm-up day, Sha’Carri Richardson, May 24, 2024, photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun

In that time frame, Richardson has grown in stature and became arguably the best sprinter in the world, winning two Gold and one bronze medal at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest. Still, she wasn’t going to pass up the chance to stick it up her rival’s face on the ground her shoe sponsors, Nike, see as the spiritual home of track and field.

In retrospect, this was the moment when Richardson’s present and future converged. Her first two races over the 200m weren’t convincing enough. Simply put, no world champion should be running such times in an Olympic year. Let’s face it, she knew the target was on her back. But it is in moments like these champions are made. Up against the reigning World indoor 60m Champion, Julien Alfred, Thompson-Herah, and Marie Josee Ta Lou-Smith were the other star attractions on the line as they had hoped to be party-poopers.

In recent days, we’ve heard arguments dismissing the significance of judging based on one performance. Yet, isn’t this the essence of sports? From World Championship finals to Olympic showdowns, pivotal moments define careers and legacies. Winning these moments isn’t everything, but to deny their importance is absurd. Sha’Carri Richardson’s triumph in Eugene epitomizes seizing the crucial moment.

Sha’Carri Richardson billboard from NIKE, photo found on LSU social site credited to Billbo T Baggins.

The second question is why Richardson can’t run like this every time she graces the track. Athletes have a chicken-and-egg situation, as it’s hard to decipher what happens when they don’t run fast early in the season. Track and field’s complexity ensures that each athlete aspires to peak at global events like the World Championships or Olympics. Diverse bodies, coaching methods, and contractual obligations further complicate the journey.

While she was getting huge endorsements to add to her collection, most of her track fans were worried that her times were not up to standard. Richardson had run 10.76s already by this time last year. It’s been the exact opposite this year, and that’s why this win in Oregon meant so much to her.

Sha’Carri Richardson, stretching, May 24, 2025, NIKE Pre Classic, photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun

This is an athlete built for peaks and troughs, a commercial entertainment vehicle for Nike in skin-tight sportswear, and sometimes you get to see the worst of her with performances in China. Next, she’s giving world-class performances like this. It will do her a world of good to keep up with the latter as it continues to indicate she’s number one. But oh boy, she was in supreme form in Oregon and this is the part of Sha’Carri people want to keep seeing. Certainly not her rivals.

What next? A couple more races, the Olympics trials, and Paris will be on the horizon, and even if some fans are still stinking out the joint, micromanaging every single race she laces her spikes to compete in, there is at least the sensation of renewal. This win here shows Richardson is still number one.

ShaCarri Richardson, Budapest 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

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