Thursday was special for William Griswold. As the head coach of South Aiken High School’s track & field team, he had the privilege of attending a college signing for one of his athletes. But what made the event unique was that the runner signing a letter of intent, Tyi Richards, is Griswold’s stepdaughter.

“It’s a good situation to be in, being a coach and a parent,” Griswold said after Richards put pen to paper to continue competing in track & field for Spartanburg Methodist College, a two-year school. “She’s a good kid, a young lady who will make us proud. … It’s really gratifying.”

While Griswold has a special relationship with Richards, it didn’t prevent him from being honest about her ability. He said that when she first started with track, she wasn’t “super talented.” Griswold explained that Richards had to work hard to get to the point where she’s competed in the state championships three years in a row and been named All-State for two consecutive years.

Richards has distinguished herself in a number of events, with her specialty being the 400 hurdles and the 4x400. In addition to running relays, Richards also competes in various field events, including shot put. Griswold said this versatility could allow Richards – South Aiken’s female weightroom record holder – to complete in the heptathlon in college.

Whatever events are her specialties, Richards likely won’t be performing them for the Pioneers for long. She chose Spartanburg Methodist over other colleges such as Methodist University, Converse College and Columbia (S.C.) College but only expects to be with the Pioneers for a year.

“After one year, if I get a better opportunity, I’ll take it,” Richards said of transferring to a four-year program, adding that a few she has in mind include Methodist, North Carolina Central and the College of Charleston. “I’m going to go there for a year and get more people to look at me for academics and track.”

Richards said that her work in the classroom is her priority and that will be the ultimate factor in any move she makes. Given her track record, Richards should have options. She’s a fixture on South Aiken’s A/B Honor Roll, and like any proud parent, Griswold was quick to point out that Richards has a 4.0 GPA. Richards said she’d pursue a degree in criminal justice forensics.

“I like to help others,” she said of her future goals. “I want to keep my grades up and focus on school first, then track.”

But when the focus switches to track, Richards has some specific thoughts in mind. She wants to break the South Aiken record in the 400 hurdles before graduating. Eclipsing the mark of 1:06.44 won’t be easy for a runner whose personal best is 1:10.74. But Richards has shown that achieving her goals is possible.

“I want to get my time down,” she said. “I hope to run a faster time and go from there and see other opportunities.”

Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.