Lakewood's Ryen Ridgill does a little bit of everything for the Lakewood track team.
On the track, he runs the hurdles and the 4x400, while he uses that leaping ability in the high jump to dominate field events.
On Saturday, he was able to show off all of those skills at the Gamecock Invitational. He earned a first-place finish and took second in two more events. His excellent day on the track helped him earn the Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week.
"I feel very loved from all the support from my family and my community," Ridgill said. "Them coming out and voting for me really shows how much of a big impact that Lakewood sports has on this community."
Lakewood head coach Youshi Kirkland could tell Ridgill was in for a big day from the start.
"I definitely saw him focused from the time I saw him in the morning," Kirkland said. "Usually, I see other athletes laughing and joking. I saw him isolated to himself with his headphones in, and that's how I knew he was focused."
Ridgill won the 400m hurdles, a challenging event that combines a long sprint with precise leaping. He felt like he was prepared to run a good race when he stepped on the track. He crossed the finish line in 58.37 seconds to win by more than a full second.
"I'm always making sure I get my mind ready, make sure I'm praying and trusting, but going into the blocks, I felt confident," Ridgill said. "I just did what I do best, which is perform to the best of my capability, and I got the results that I needed."
The Gator was busy. He also ran on the second-place 4x400 team and finished second in the high jump. He had a battle in the field, as he, Ridge View's Brycen Means and Carolina Forest's Nazair Thompson all cleared 6'. Ridgill finished second on the tiebreaker.
"Just making sure I'm keeping my body well rested, hydrating and stretching, just making sure I continue to stay focused in my training," Ridgill said of the key to performing at a high level across several events. "Most definitely just praying up, trusting God and his capabilities to get me where I need to be."
Kirkland was proud to see Ridgill's hard work pay off with a big day.
"He's been a leader on the team. He's always in the front, always saying he can stay after. All that hard work is starting to show," Kirkland said. "The mindset he has, the energy he gives and the leadership he shows is there, so he's going to get a great outcome."
Having an athlete who thrives in both track and field events is a weapon for any coach. Kirkland is glad to have an athlete like Ridgill to anchor the team around.
"There's not too many athletes doing both running and field events," Kirkland said. "To have a few athletes that can do both is big for our team and the goals we have for this season. To have one win Athlete of the Week, that's real big for our program because we've been down the last few years. We're definitely elevated now. With athletes like him, that's huge for our program."
Kirkland thinks this is only the beginning for Ridgill.
"Just trusting the process," Kirkland said. "This started in the offseason, and now that he's seeing that offseason actually worked and he's PRing at the beginning of the season, that's showing them that all the work they're putting in has a positive outcome. Now that they've seen improvement, they know later, it's going to be even better if they trust the process."
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