Armwood track star runs with joy
SEFFNER - If you ask Richard Jules to compete in a track and field event, chances are he will gladly accept the offer. From throws to jumps to hurdles to distance events, the Armwood senior has done just about everything you can do in the sport. And besides doing them all well, he's done it with a positive attitude. "I've been around the program, I've seen a lot of athletes come through here and I've never seen a guy like Richard - ever," said Armwood coach Chris Biernacki. "He's done just about everything except the pole vault and if you gave him time, I bet he could be pretty good at that, too." If there was still a high school decathlon in Florida, Jules would be a strong favorite to win it. In relay races, he has split 400 meters under 50 seconds and 800 below 2 minutes. He has high-jumped 6 feet, 2 inches, owns a 300 hurdles time of 39.88 and has even tossed the shot and discus and, in the distance medley relay, run the 1,200.So why, in an era where many track athletes prefer to specialize in one or two events, does Jules compete in the maximum (four) each week? "I just love it," said Jules, who has competed for Armwood's track team since he was a freshman. "If coach asks me to do something, I'll always try it." Jules is so fond of track and field that he plans to continue competing in college. And that's on top of playing football. A standout receiver for Armwood, Jules has signed a scholarship with Gardner Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C., where he has made it clear to the football coaches he also wants to run track. If forced to pick between the sports, Jules said he couldn't. "No, no way," Jules said. "Both are too important to me." After setting individual school records last year in the 300 hurdles and 800 and being on record-setting relay teams in the 4x400, 4x800 and distance medley, Jules is looking to improve those marks this spring. Biernacki thinks there's no reason why Jules can't achieve that goal. And considering the difficulty of those events, that would be quite an achievement. "It's not like he's doing short races like the 100 and 200," Biernacki said. "The 400, 800 and 300 hurdles are about as hard it gets in track. And then there are the qualifying rounds that he has to do in 300, along with the high jump." Come district time, when athletes begin the qualification process for the state finals and teams try to squeeze the maximum points from their athletes, Jules will see action in his four events (4x800, high jump, 300 hurdles and 4x400), which is the most allowed for an athlete. When Jules finishes a meet with that many duties, he says he has no problem sleeping. "Whoo, I'm drained after a meet like that!" Jules said. "But it's a good tired, especially when I do well and the team does, too."
Reporter Bill Ward can be reached at (813) 259-7456