LAURINBURG – Last Wednesday, November 29, Richmond Senior High School ventured into unchartered waters when its Raiders participated in the school’s first swim meet in program history at St. Andrews University. Like many firsts, the Sandhills Athletic Conference’s inaugural meet was not without its growing pains.
Official results were delayed for several days leaving coaches, swimmers and parents wondering where exactly they stood in the conference. It took nearly a week before area coaches were able to see exactly how their swimmers fared.
With the official week one results finally calculated, and many of the underlying problems resolved, the SAC teams met again at St Andrews on Wednesday evening for a much smoother week two meet.
As expected, the more seasoned teams at Pinecrest and Jack Britt high schools dominated the meet, with one of the two schools finishing first in each event. Meanwhile, the new programs like Richmond were working more on development.
“What we are trying to do is clean it up technically,” said Richmond head coach Mike Way following the meet. “Instead of winning heats, we are just trying to have fewer DQs (disqualifications). We are trying to get more kids swimming legally before they swim faster.”
Richmond did a better job with DQs on Wednesday. The Richmond boys’ and girls’ teams combined for 50 entries, but were only hit with five DQs.
In order for the SAC to be competitive in the future, reducing DQs is a must. With five of the eight conference teams having little to no competitive swimming experience, disqualifications plagued the first meet, which was one factor that delayed the week one results. According to SAC Secretary Gary Brigman, there were over 200 DQs in the first meet.
Richmond performed well against its fellow start-up programs in several events. In the girls 200-yard freestyle relay, the Lady Raiders finished third with a time of 2:23.80, beating out Lumberton which finished at 2:30.56.
In the boys 200-yard freestyle relay, Richmond finished with a time of 1:54.18, narrowly falling behind Lumberton (1:54.08) to finish fourth, but finished ahead of rival Scotland (2:03.33) and Purnell Swett (2:09.68).
Senior Carter Roberson finished 6th in the boys’ 200-yard free final. Roberson (3:00.49) finished ahead of five swimmers including Lumberton’s Matt Cutbush (3:01.85), Scotland’s Bradley Pate (3:16.57), and Hoke’s Brady Callahan (3:42.82).
A big victory for the Raiders on the night came from senior Jimmy Cooley, who finished second in the 100-yard fly finals with a time of 1:17.85. He finished ahead of Jack Britt’s Ethan Smith (1:20.92) and behind Pinecrest’s Riley Yelverton (1:08.28).
Brice Billingsley also fared really well in the boys’ 50-yard freestyle finals. He finished seventh out of the 37 entries with a time of 29.51seconds.
Richmond finished last in several events, but this was affected by limited participation by some schools. For example, Sevebty-First, Hoke, Purnell Swett and Scotland do not have girls relay teams. Lumberton only entered one of the three girls relay events on Wednesday. This left the Lady Raiders swimming alone against the very experienced Pinecrest and Jack Britt teams.
Richmond was also affected by the reduction in the number of events between last week and Wednesday night’s meet.
“I feel like the first meet went great, except it was too long,” said Taylor Cooper, second-year head swimming coach at St Andrews. “We are trying to shorten it. We had to cut back some events and improve the logistics of the meet so that it runs a little smoother.”
Because of last week’s four and half hour meet, many of the athletes did not return home until after midnight. So, while cutting back on events was necessary, it also raised the level of competition that the Raiders faced in various heats.
“There were so many fewer entries tonight,” explained Way. “Last week, it was so overcrowded with entries that we were swimming against the fourth and fifth best kids at Pinecrest and Jack Britt. Where today, when you have just one or two heats, we were swimming against the best they’ve got.”
Despite the complications, Cooper believes that the conference meets have gone really well.
“Last week’s meet was great,” said Cooper. “I’ve never been to a meet that had that many parents. I was taken back by that. The parents were into it. All of the A.D.’s were there. It was a great first meet.”
“Tonight has gone much better logistically,” Cooper added. “We’ll be out of here much earlier.”
Cooper coached swimming in Pinehurst for two decades and noted that access to public pools and a general interest in the sport has helped to keep swim teams active and successful at Pinecrest High School. The lack of those assets has hurt neighboring counties in the region, so he was delighted to see so much participation from other area schools.
“I didn’t think I’d see swimming at Richmond in my lifetime to be honest with you,” Cooper continued. “(Coach Way) was really into it, he was jumping around. It was really exciting to see.”
Richmond’s swim teams will return to the pool at St. Andrews on Wednesday, December 13, at 6:15pm for their third conference meet of the season.
Senior Mackenzie Webb
Senior Altman Griffin
Senior Ben Morrison
Junior Jenna Kubiak