Kristin Richards thought she was going to dinner with her family. But when she walked into the restaurant in Provo, Utah, last month, she was greeted by about 20 grinning people.
"There are all these people I love and these people I don't know," said the 17-year-old Laurel in the Heatheridge 5th Ward, Orem Utah Heatheridge Stake.
Those people she didn't know presented the surprised teenager with the Gatorade National High School Volleyball Player of the Year Award for 2003. "Everyone started clapping," said the soft-spoken young woman who logged 248 kills last season ("kill" is a volleyball term for spiking the ball past defenders), led Timpanogos High School to four state championships, is a two-time All-American and has traveled the world as a member of U.S. junior national teams.
"Winning this award was an honor for me," Kristin told the Church News. "It's neat to represent the Church as well. I've been very blessed with a talent to play volleyball. This award was so overwhelming."
Volleyball seems to run in Kristin's blood. Her mother, Lori Richards, is former volleyball coach for Utah Valley State College, and her father, Dave Richards, is a former member of the men's U.S. Olympic team. Picking up a volleyball when she was still a child, Kristin has now competed for the U.S. both inside its borders and in Puerto Rico, and such nations as Dominican Republic, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, France and Austria.
But while she loves the game, Kristin has her priorities in check. She carries a 3.9 (out of 4.0) grade point average and serves as a community volunteer working with troubled and abused children.
"The Church is so much more important than volleyball," the tall young woman said. "The Church is the most important thing in my life. Volleyball would never make me change my standards. I wouldn't give up my standards to win a game of volleyball."
Her standards haven't gone unnoticed by others. "Usually I'm the only Mormon on the national team. It's just a really good opportunity for me to share the gospel. People are always asking me questions. That's what I love, meeting these people and trying to be a good example."
One such person was Kristin's roommate from Southern California when the U.S. junior national team competed in the Dominican Republic in summer 2001. She began asking Kristin questions about the Church and apologizing when she swore. She also noticed Kristin reading her scriptures and praying every night. "One night she wanted to read scriptures with me. We read together and talked and I gave her a Book of Mormon. Just the little things like that make it all worth it."
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