RIPLEY – Ripley senior Jada Rich is known around northeast Mississippi for her basketball prowess. However, the all-division player is also a standout in track and field and that talent has propelled her to the next level.
Rich signed a track national letter of intent with Southern Miss on Tuesday.
She said that signing in track may be surprising to some, but she’s now thankful for being forced into the sport for conditioning purposes by former basketball coach Katie Bates.
Rich said she decided on USM after an official visit in March.
“I love track and I’m excited about a great opportunity,” said Rich, who had discussions with Northeast and ICC about basketball but never got around to the offer phase. “This may not be what everybody thought, but basketball is probably the only part of me that they knew.”
Following a third-place finish in shot put as a freshman, Rich won a 3A state title in the event as a sophomore in 2013. Last season, she brought home silver in Class 4A. She also owns three top-four finishes in discus over that span.
Rich said she’s been told by Southern Miss coaches she could complete in a number of field events from discus to javelin.
With her competitive spirit, she welcomes all the events she can handle. “I’m a competitive person. A lot of people look at track and may not think it’s competitive, but I like to win that too,” said Rich.
Third-year Ripley track coach Sam Hathorn said that competitive nature is what drives her.
“She always going to do what it takes to be the best,” said Hathorn. “She’s always asking what she threw and what she can do to get a little more on it. They’re going to get a good one.”
Rich is the first Ripley athlete to sign a Division I track scholarship since Justin Terry with Alcorn State in 2011.