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Dahri Jahn-Richardson won the Montgomery County title in the 500-meter dash and hunched over as two of his coaches rushed ecstatically at him. One patted him on the back, and the other leaned down to stick a watch in Jahn-Richardson’s face.

It read 1 minute, 6 seconds and change (which would later be confirmed with an official time of 1:06.45).

The Northwest High School senior had been stuck running 1:07s and 1:08s, but at his biggest meet to date, he finally broke the barrier.

“It was just another gear,” Jahn-Richardson said. “I didn’t want to lose, so I’ve just been training harder. It finally came through.

“I couldn’t tell at all. I never know. I mean, it felt different. So, in a way, maybe I thought so, but I never assume. But it felt real good.”

Northwest coach Robert Youngblood spoke into the Jahn-Richardson’s ear, by appearance, congratulating the senior for an excellent race.

What did Youngblood actually say?

“He was saying I run dumb,” Jahn-Richardson said. “I never get out.”

Youngblood, in his first year as Northwest’s coach, has constantly challenged Jahn-Richardson, even in the best of times, and the senior says his new coach has gotten the best from him.

It started during cross country season, when Youngblood sat Richardson down and told him he must become a leader — a complete reversal from Jahn-Richardson’s first three years.

“I didn’t really need to step up,” Jahn-Richardson said of his past role. “There was always someone. I guess I never really tried to step up and do that because I guess I thought it was easier to not be the one in charge.”

Youngblood described Jahn-Richardson as the type who preferred to run the first leg of a relay and then get out of the way.

“I said, ‘No, you’re going to be a senior. You’re going to be counted on,’” said Youngblood, who made Jahn-Richardson the anchor. “That’s what he does now.”

“I can’t see it being any other way,” said Jahn-Richardson, who’s affectionately called “Papa” by his younger teammates.

Even some of Jahn-Richardson’s former teammates have been “totally amazed” by his progress, Youngblood said.

Jahn-Richardson has been recruited by High Point University, Bridgewater College and Salisbury University. He’s also been accepted by the University of Maryland.

Does he ever wonder where he’d be if everything had come together sooner?

“I’ve thought about that a lot, actually,” Jahn-Richardson said. “Sometimes, I think that, but everything kind of happens for a reason. I’ve had a million different coaches, and I always thought that this coach would make me the best or whatever. ... But I wish I had ’Blood a lot sooner. I definitely can say that. I’m just glad I’m doing what I’m doing now, that I’m showing something, that I can do it if I work hard like I am. But do I necessarily regret it? Um, well, I don’t know. I don’t know. I probably wish sometimes that I would have done more in the past. But you can’t change it, and I’m just doing what I can to better myself.”

Youngblood prefers to focus on the present and future.

“He knows he can do pretty much anything now,” Youngblood said.

dfeldman@gazette.net