Home Local Sports ‘Play smart, play hard’: Cheering the Raiders to states

‘Play smart, play hard’: Cheering the Raiders to states

The Richmond cheerleaders perform stunts during the third round of the 4A East state playoffs. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM — Another constant this winter for the Richmond Raider basketball team, aside from winning, has been the school’s cheerleading team.

The Richmond cheer squad, made up of 13 cheerleaders, has been with the Raider hoops team every step of the way.

The final step this season will be the NCHSAA 4A state championship game on Saturday between Richmond and Myers Park High School.

Cheerleading is one of the longest-running sports at Richmond during the school year, beginning with tryouts in May, followed by summer workouts and full football and basketball schedules.

Now the Raider cheerleaders and head coach Meredith Hood hope to be a part of history should the basketball team win. 

Richmond has been to three previous state championships (1988, 1996 and 1997), but finished as the state runner-up each time.

The Richmond Observer interviewed several cheerleaders at Friday’s final practice before the big game, asking them about this year’s playoff run.

Cayden Hood, seniorWhat have you enjoyed most about your final year as a Richmond cheerleader?

“This year has been the best year out of all four years of cheerleading at Richmond. Going to the state championship is really cool and special because it’s a great accomplishment and our brothers play football at Carolina. It’s also been a great last year being able to spend it with my mom and sister on the sidelines.”

Tatum Rhyne, seniorHow has this season been special as a senior and do you have a favorite memory?

“This season has been special as a senior because we’ve been really close as a team. It makes it better when everybody is friends and we all get along. 

“My favorite memory so far has been getting to cheer at the regional game and I’m really excited to get to cheer at the state championship game.”

Abby Williams, seniorWhat have been some of the highlights of your final season as a cheerleader at Richmond?

“This senior season has been exciting because I was able to cheer alongside my sister, who was on the JV team. This was our last time being a part of the same team. I also liked being able to cheer with my daddy during football season, which has been an amazing three years.

“I’ve also enjoyed the fact that our team was so close this year and really bonded together. This has been the longest season, but it’s been great because of all the people and memories.”

Sophia Chavis, juniorWhat would you say is the most exciting part of cheering for basketball and which game has been the best so far?

“The most exciting part of cheering for basketball is when the crowd cheers back with us and gets involved in the game. It’s a lot of fun, and my favorite game would have to be regionals because the crowd was so intense and exciting.

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“It’s really cool to see my parents cheering along with us right behind the team. They get everyone going and are big supporters of us and the basketball team.”

Natalie Meacham, juniorWhat are your expectations for Saturday and how will the cheer team help the Raiders?

“My expectations for Saturday are for the boys to play hard and we help them keep the energy up and play better. I think the team is looking forward to the whole experience of going to the Dean Dome and cheering in a bigger venue. 

“We’re excited for the energy that’s going to be there and we’ll do our part to help the team any way we can.”

Lexi Medlin, juniorWhat have the playoff crowds been like and what do you hope Saturday’s game is like?

“The playoff crowds have been really enthusiastic and have really packed up the gym at home games and at regionals. Everyone has done a great job cheering them on, and I hope a lot of fans show up in gold on Saturday. The team will need everyone’s support.”

Nevaeh Harris, sophomoreDo you have any words of encouragement for the basketball team or a message for the fans?

“My words of encouragement for the basketball team are to play smart, play hard and prove everybody wrong. This is their road to revenge, so I hope they make it count and do what they know how to do.

“I really hope they make history and they know we’re rooting for them. When they look back, I hope they remember they were loved. To the fans, I want them to be loud, respectful and dress out in gold to support our family.”

Kylie Hood, sophomoreHow would you describe this year’s cheerleading team?

“I would describe this year’s cheer team as close to perfect because we’ve all gotten so close. Even though we’re in different grade levels, we see each other in the hallways and are friends. We laugh and play, but we know when to get serious at game time.

“We’re a family and during the playoffs, this has made it the longest season any of us have ever cheered for basketball. Because of that, we’ve learned a lot about each other and have had a lot of fun.”

Mattie Moss, sophomoreWhat has been the best part of this basketball season?

“The best part about this season has been seeing how close our school has gotten, especially with the community. We’ve been able to get involved in a lot of things during games and the playoffs. It’s been great to see everyone cheer on the team and for us to be a part of that.”

Tip-off between Richmond and Myers Park High School is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. 

The game will be played at the Dean E. Smith Center and Richmond fans are encouraged to sit in sections 100-108 and 126-133. The school has also decided on a “gold out,” as Myers Park fans will wear green.

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.