To hear Guyer cross country coach Jonathan Ponsonby talk about Dalton Richey’s performance in the 800 meters at the Class 5A Region I championship track and field meet in Lubbock last month, it would be easy to think it was a father talking about a son.
Richey had what Ponsonby called the worst race of his life, and Ponsonby would know.
The first-year head coach is in his fourth year at Guyer. Before that he was at Crownover Middle School, where he coached Richey beginning as a sixth-grader.
Richey ran his preliminary heat in 2 minutes, 4 seconds — 8 seconds worse than his personal best — and failed to qualify for the finals, ending his high school running career.
“He didn’t even make it to the first 100-meter mark, and I knew something was up,” Ponsonby said. “After the race he told me he was dead. I took the blame for it. Maybe the workouts were too much. But of course Dalton wouldn’t accept that. He just said, ‘I didn’t show up today.’”
There were two college coaches there to watch Richey run. One was no longer interested after the race, but the coaches from Arkansas-Little Rock were, and Richey pounced on the opportunity, signing a national letter of intent this week to run collegiately for the Trojans.
“One of those coaches got a gold mine in Dalton, and the other one lost a [heck] of an athlete,” Ponsonby said. “He’s not only a runner, he’s an athlete. I’ll definitely be able to use him as an example of success for the rest of my runners.”
Richey has done a little of everything for Guyer as a four-year varsity athlete who has excelled for Ponsonby and head coach Oschlor Flemming.
Early in his career, he ran the 1,600 and 3,200 before shifting to the 1,600 and 800 as a junior. This past season, Richey focused on the 800 and also ran some on Guyer’s 1,600 relay.
“He will do whatever you ask him to do, and he’ll do it all-out,” Flemming said. “He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve been around in a long time.”
He is now joining a select group of Guyer boys track athletes who will be running at the Division I level with Joe Barb (Baylor) and Kristian Dillard (UTEP).
Looking at Guyer’s track records, it’s clear to see how he’s gotten to this point.
He holds the school record in the 800 (1:56), the mile (4:24), two-mile (9:55) and the 5-kilometer race in cross country, which he set last year at the regional meet in Lubbock with a time of 15:47.
“It means a lot,” Richey said of the opportunity to run at the Division I level. “I didn’t really think I’d be here when I started. When they called me and said they wanted me to go there, I just got really excited.
“I just liked the campus and the running program seems really good. It seemed like a no-brainer.”
But despite all of his accolades at Guyer, Flemming said Richey never really thought of the possibility that he could run at the next level.
Around the time of the district track meet last month, schools started showing interest, most notably UALR and West Texas A&M.
“I asked if he wanted to run in college, and he said, ‘Um, yeah?’ So I told him West Texas A&M and Little Rock were interested, and we went from there,” Flemming said.
Richey was not the only one who didn’t see the collegiate athlete in his future.
Just ask Ponsonby.
“Dalton was probably my No. 4 or No. 5 runner in junior high,” Ponsonby said. “He was really quiet and a little scrawny kid, but he’s so hardworking. There hasn’t been a workout I’ve come up with that he hasn’t completed. To go from what he was in junior high to a full ride in college, that’s the perfect story of Dalton and his hard work. He’s so tough.
“Every cliche you can find in a book, that’s Dalton.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is email@example.com .