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Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Richards likely a lock for Athens

Associated Press

AUSTIN -- University of Texas sophomore Sanya Richards, one of America's rising young track stars and the reigning U.S. champion in the 400 meters, scheduled a Wednesday news conference to announce her future in the sport.

Considered a safe bet to make the U.S. Olympic team for Athens later this summer, Richards is expected to announce whether she will stay at Texas or turn pro.

Richards, 19, and her coach Bev Kearney were unavailable for comment Tuesday, a team spokesman said.

In an interview with The Associated Press last week, Richards suggested she planned to stay at Texas but left open the possibility of leaving.

"That's my goal, to stay here and continue to contribute to the University of Texas," she said.

But she also said the money available to top professionals in endorsement contracts, appearances fees and prizes was attractive.

"The money's good. The money sounds great, but I don't know. My parents and I haven't really talked about it too much," she said. "I think the money will be there whether I take it now or in two years, because I'm going to have my mind set on my big dreams."

Richards suffered a rare loss in her signature race last weekend at the NCAA championships, finishing third behind Tennessee's Dee Dee Trotter and UCLA's Monique Henderson. It was her first collegiate loss in the 400 outdoors and it came on her home track.

"I'm going to keep fighting to be the best in the 400," Richards said after the race. "I don't like to lose. I'll go back to the drawing board and I'll come back better."

The Olympic trials begin July 9 in Sacramento, Calif.

Richards also was a member of Team USA's gold medal-winning team in the 1,600 relay at the 2003 world championships.

Last year, sprinter Allyson Felix turned pro at 17 and signed a shoe contract with Adidas. And after breaking Jim Ryun's high school mile record in 2001, Alan Webb spent one season at Michigan before turning pro.