By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Ayden Richmond isn’t the kind of athlete who accepts what he perceives as anything other than success.
To that end, the son of Jodi (Springer) and Jeff Richmond has been itching to get back in the gym after he made 21 of his 25 free-throw attempts at the Elks Hoop Shoot national championships last Saturday in Springfield, Mass.
“I want to get that 21 out of my system,” he said. “I’ll try and shoot a 25 then go on to the bigger ball for next year.”
“That fits his personality,” Jeff Richmond said. “He ‘s the kind of kid that if you tell him something’s impossible, he’ll go and try to do it. He’ll keep trying until he does it.”
Ayden Richmond, a 9-year-old third grader at Cork Elementary, finished seventh in the 8- and 9-year-old division at Western New England University.
“It was hard because I made it that far then finished seventh,” Ayden Richmond said. “I had a lot of fun and made some new friends. One of my friends won the older age group.”
“He was a little disappointed,” Jeff Richmond said. “The tears started and he was pretty depressed. Day by day, he’s gotten a little better
“He took it real hard. He said he didn’t accomplish his goal. We told him he’s not always going to accomplish what he wants to, but God has a reason. It’s a hard lesson to be learned, but it will be over time. He made a lot of memories through the competition and he gave us a lot of memories, as well.”
After the first 10 attempts, Ayden Richmond was perfect and tied for the lead.
“He was the only kid turned (away from the competition) with his ears covered,” Jeff Richmond said. “He looked back at us and we gave him the thumbs up because he was in the lead. He was on and feeling good.”
That feeling didn’t last as 11 other competitors had to take their turns before Ayden Richmond got to shoot again. He missed four of his next 15 attempts and slid back to seventh place. The eventual winner made all 15 of his shots.
“It just takes so long to shoot and there are so many kids,” Jeff Richmond said. “There are 12 kids. The kid who won, his best score at any of the competitions (leading up to nationals) was a 20. He was unconscious.
“The Elks do a good job in keeping the same format all the way through, but there are so many kids it makes the process so much slower. That hurt a lot of the kids in the second rack.”
That’s the nature of young kids at high-pressure events. Anything can, and usually does, happen.
“One of the directors told me that they could go back and run every one of the age groups again and there would be a completely different top three in all of the divisions,” Jeff Richmond said.
It was tough for the Richmonds not to be able to console Ayden directly following his second set of shots.
“They basically took possession of the kids from the time they went to breakfast until after everybody shot. When his turn was over, he went over and sat down and started crying.
“I wanted to go grab him and hug him. They don’t allow any interaction between the parents and the kids until the competition is over. I wanted to tell him how proud we were of him. It was hard to see him sitting there on the floor after he shot. It was very tough for Jodi and I.”
The Richmonds are appreciate of all the support from all the different sources it came from along the way.
“We have to thank Geneva Recreation Center and Spire,” Jeff Richmond said. “They’ve been great. They’ve let us practice as much as we needed to.
“Also, our church, Madison Park United Methodist, has been a great supporter of us.”
Ayden and Jeff Richmond now have a little less than a calendar year to prepare for the next competition. There will be an addition to their training sessions going forward. Ayden’s little sister Brooke Richmond, 7, will be old enough to compete the next time around.
“He was actually mad at me because I wouldn’t take him to the gym to practice,” Jeff Richmond said. “I told him we were going to take a few days to relax and get caught up on everything. He has school work that needs to be caught up. He’s a motivated young guy. He wants to get back out there.
“The Elks actually have it up on their website that it’s 352 days until next year. His little sister gets to go with us now, too. She was mad at me, too, because we didn’t go shoot. She wanted to go with us. I thought the last thing (Ayden) wanted to do was go and shoot.
“He first shot at the Ashtabula County championships on Dec. 15. He’s been shooting every day for the last five months. It’s sad the ride is over.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.