The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 18, 2013

Ayden the cause

Family helps 9-year-old Ayden Richmond to become state champion in Elks Hoop Shot. Next up — regionals

For the Star Beacon

— Ayden Richmond can be forgiven if, after his latest adventeure, he feels like a star. The 9-year-old third grader at Cork Elementary has earned the treatment.

Richmond qualified for the Elks Hoop Shoot regional competition in Angola, Ind. by virtue of claiming the Ohio state championship for 8- and 9-year-olds.

“It felt really good,” Richmond, the son of Jeff and Jodi (Springer) Richmond, said. “I thought it would take a bigger score, like 23 or 24, to win.”

A win against the state champs from Indiana and Michigan on March 16 would qualify Richmond for the national competition in Springfield, Mass.

Ayden Richmond made seven of his first 10 attempts in Gahanna before sinking 13 of his final 15 to claim the state title over five other competitors.

The competition was not an easy one for Ayden Richmond. There were a number of people right down on the floor with him. Also, Richmond had made a point of not watching the other competitors in his age group while he was waiting. At the state competition, he was forced to be creative in trying to do so.

“I just looked ta the rim the whole entire time,” Ayden Richmond said. “I didn’t want to get nervous watching the other kids shoot.”

“We thought it would take a higher score to win,” Jeff Richmond said. “All the kids were nervous. It’s more intense than their district competions.

“There are six people (including rebounders and score keepers) inside the free-throw line watching the kids shoot. The other five competitors are sitting at midcourt watching, too. (Ayden) sat in the end chair (at midcourt) and turned to watch the girls shooting (at the other end of the court).”  

At first, Ayden Richmond wasn’t sure he’d won the event. His parents made the outcome quite clear right away.

“My dad gave me a thumb’s up from the stands,” Ayden Richmond said.

“He didn’t know where he stood when he made those first seven,” Richmond said. “We gave him a thumb’s up and tried to cheer him up. Even after he was done, he didn’t know he’d won. But even before the last kid was done shooting, we already knew he’d won.”

Following the victory, Ayden Richmond was joined by a proud younger sister, Brooke, 6, who helped him celebrate.

“Even my sister, Brooke, kept all the scores,” Ayden Richmond said. “She had to get her picture taken with me.”

“Brooke was keeping score right there with us,” Jeff Richmond said. “She’s excited because she gets to do it next year. She was excited for her brother. She had to go right down and get her picture taken with her brother.”

The win set up a mid-year family reunion for the Richmonds.

“We told him before the competition, and this almost backfired, that if he won state we’d be going to Indiana, which is only four or five hours away from his Aunt Denise (Skeels) Abfall, who lives in Green Bay, Wisc., and his Aunt Shelly (Skeels) Jurcenko, who lives in Chicago. It’s cool they’ll get to see him.”

“I’m really excited,” Ayden Richmond said. “It’s the first time they’ll get to see me shoot free throws.”

Ayden Richmond has but one goal for the regional competition,

“I have to beat the kid from Up North,” Ayden Richmond said.

“I don’t want any team from Up North in any sport to win,” he added, referring to the Ohio State men’s basketball team and its battles with Michigan in the Big Ten.

“I told him he didn’t have to practice anymore if he didn’t want,” Richmond said. “I told him he was guaranteed at least third place. He looked at me funny and I told him there were only three kids in the competition. Obviously, we know he needs a better score and we’re focusing on being perfect, and if not making 24. We keep telling him to just beat the kid from Up North. I told him the whole Buckeye Nation is behind him.

“We all graduated from Ohio State, so we’re all rooting for him to beat the kid from Up North. He told me, ‘Dad, I’ve got to beat the kid from Up North.’”