By P. A. Tezuka , SMC Public Affairs
/ Published August 15, 2008
LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- His name is Ricardo Wright, II, but he likes to be called "Rico." He is the son of Master Sgt. Ricardo Wright of the 61st Communications Squadron here at Los Angeles Air Force Base. Rico is 15-years-old and will be a junior this fall at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach. He likes to watch movies and just hang out with his friends when he has the time.
If you think he's just a typical teenager, well, not quite so. Rico is an athlete and a member of the USA Track and Field federation. He is involved in the sport with his high school team and with the USATF club, the Southern California Running Cougars. He has been competing individually and as a team member for the past four years.
He recently came home from the 2008 USATF National Junior Olympics Track and Field Championships games held in Omaha, Neb., with two medals - one Gold and one Bronze - running the relay races with his team members, Chris Hall, Aaron Harris and Josh Mance. The team achieved its gold medals in the 4x800M relay by clocking at 8:10 seconds, fastest time in the nation for intermediate-level boys ages 15 through 16. Team levels range from bantam, 7 to 8 year olds, to adults, 17 to 18 year olds.
"Whooo! It was a good meet," said Rico. "I loved it. We got to race against one of the best athletes in the nation."
The week-long meet was held during the latter part of July. Participants gathered from all across the United States.
"More than 5,000 athletes [competed]," said Rico. "It was a very big track meet."
Rico was the anchor leg (last runner) in the 4x800M relay where the team set a new record. (Anchor leg position is usually reserved for the fastest runner in the team.) He was the lead leg (first runner) in the 4x400M relay which gave the team a great start.
"To be able to hold it off [with the great teamwork] and come through that first-place time and get number one in the nation was the highlight of the day," said Rico. "Then at the beginning of the next race, there was so much hype. Just being able to hand the baton to my next member to keep it going definitely was the highlight of the week."
Rico was scheduled to participate in four events - three relay and one individual races - however; due to a scheduling mix up, he missed his individual race and stayed with his team.
During the Junior Olympics, scouts from colleges such as Louisiana State University, Iowa State, University of Southern California, Arizona State University, Baylor University (one of the top track schools in Texas) and many from the west coast teams approached Rico. He said it was a great confidence booster.
"I got offers from many colleges to come take tours around their campuses," said Rico. "I'm definitely looking forward for that."
His 20-25 hour a week work-out includes running the track with his high school and club teams and lifting weights daily.
"I practice three hours, three times a week with the club team and run [with the] high school team every day," said Rico, "I have to do a lot of stuff off the track as well as far as weight lifting to keep my body in shape, stay strong and be able to run. So altogether, it's about five hours [of work-out a day]."
Rico started running regularly when the family returned from overseas and was stationed in Georgia four years ago. As a recreational sport at first, he seriously started running when he joined the track and field team.
"I've always enjoyed running," said Rico. "When I was little, I could run for 'days.'"
"When I used to play intramural football on the base when we were in England, when he was a little boy, maybe about 3-4 years old," said Sergeant Wright, "my wife would watch the game and he'd run around the track during the entire game."
"Ten times," put in Rico.
"Everybody would say, 'your son's still running around the track; he didn't sit down to watch the game at all.' And I'd say, 'yea, maybe one day he'll be a track runner,'" said Sergeant Wright. "I didn't know it would really turn out that way.
"He is turning out to be quite the athlete coming from an athletic family," said Sergeant Wright.
In addition to Sergeant Wright playing football, Rico's mother and sister are involved in track as well. The rest of the relatives are involved in various other sports also.
"My wife loves her kids and she's one of their toughest critics [on track]."
Rico receives a lot of pointers from his mother, a former track and field athlete herself. She's tough, but she knows what she's talking about.
"Number one critic," said Rico. "Definitely, tough love."
"He has definitely impressed me," said Sergeant Wright. "He had a great caliber of teammates with him. He did really, really well and we thank the people who supported him from here at Los Angeles Air Force Base and his family members back home [in Daytona Beach, Fla.]. We appreciate everything."
"I thank God for giving the opportunity to be able to do this," said Rico. "And thanks to my parents for supporting me, giving me the courage, telling me I can do it and to believe in myself,"
Rico praises his track coach, Chris Faulknor, a former Jamaican Olympian.
"He's definitely one of the best coaches I've had," said Rico. "He checks on me and make sure how I'm doing. I really thank him for his support also. He got me to where I am now."
Currently, with the football season coming up, Rico is going to focus his attention on football but will continue practicing his running skills. When the track and field season opens next year, Rico is planning to try out for the world team to go to Italy. Rico is also looking forward to being in the high school CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) state meet. (This past year, Rico was a sophomore who anchored his team with three seniors in which the team broke the school record in the 4x400M relay during the CIF competitions.)
"Can't wait for the next season to start," said Rico.