By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Her final indoor track & field season at Bridgewater State University began in impressive fashion.
Samantha Richner of Hanson broke her own school record in the high jump at the season-opening UMass Boston Invitational on Dec. 3.
"I was super excited,'' said the Whitman-Hanson Regional High graduate. "I was in good shape with my running and strength. I was always in the gym.''
During the semester break, however, Richner was dealing with bronchitis, and because she was coughing so much, wound up developing a strained rib.
Then, in Richner's first competition since opening day, she suffered a left quadriceps injury during the pentathlon at the Harvard Multi-Meet in mid-January.
It was a lingering ailment that kept Richner out of action for a good part of the winter, though she returned to win a fourth consecutive high jump championship at the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference meet last month and earned All-New England honors by placing eighth.
"My senior year began so promising,'' said Richner, "and I had to deal with the injury. I don't think (after being sick) my body was ready for the pressure of (competing).''
There is one meet left on Richner's schedule in the indoor season, however, and she is looking forward to cashing in.
Thanks to her school-record jump of 5-7 at UMass-Boston to start the season, Richner has qualified for the NCAA Division 3 Indoor Championships in Naperville, Ill. She is seeded 14th in a field of 17 and will compete on Saturday afternoon.
It marks the second trip to the NCAAs for Richner, who earned All-America status last spring by finishing eighth in the high jump in Iowa. After what she went through this winter, Richner would like nothing better to add another All-America performance this weekend.
"That's what I'm hoping for,'' said Richner. "I did so well at the nationals last year and I'm hoping to do the same or even better.
"I'm ready. I feel good. I'm confident and I'm well rested and practices have been going well. I'm hoping for the best.
"I took time off before the MASCACs last month and I won, and I've taken time off before (the NCAAs) and I hope it's a similar situation.''
Richner, who owns BSU records in the indoor and outdoor high jump and or points in the pentathlon, had just missed qualifying for the NCAAs twice before making the trip to the outdoor championships last May.
Once there, she took full advantage and became an All-America in her first appearance.
"I think having been there will give me more confidence and I'll know what to expect,'' said Richner. "I'm a senior and I have four years of experience in college.
"It was really cool going (to the NCAAs). I enjoyed my time. I tried not to get too nervous and tried to treat it like another meet. I felt like once you're out there, it's anybody's game.''