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Raiders Swimming Program Set to Make Program Debut; Relying on “Athletic” Fleet of Swimmers to Make a Splash

Senior swimmer Jimmy Cooley finishes up practice Tuesday in preparation for the season opener.
Photo courtesy of Kyle Pillar.

ROCKINGHAM – Richmond Senior High School’s athletics program is seemingly always making a splash around the Sandhills region, and new this winter, the Raiders will look to make waves in the pool as the school’s first-ever swim teams are set to begin competition.

Announced earlier this year, Richmond will join seven other Sandhills Athletic Conference schools in the conference’s inaugural season of boys and girls swimming.

And suiting up as the head of both the boys and girls team is Mike Way, who recently coached several Richmond Lady Raiders tennis players to the state playoffs. In taking the adventure from the court to the pool, Way expects this season to be filled with a lot of opportunities and growth, as he brings an athletic fleet of swimmers to the pool.

“My expectations are pretty high, as we have some very athletic kids that are picking up the sport quickly,” Way said, noting that many of his swimmers haven’t formally competed in the past. “I’m using the same concept I did with tennis; I went out and got athletes, and I hope to compete.”

As the sport is new to Richmond, Way will have to rely on the innate athletic abilities of his swimmers, most of whom are top-performing athletes in other sports such as football, soccer, softball and volleyball. Despite the lack of actual swimming experience, Way has seen a lot of effort from both teams in the early going.

“Practices have been grueling, but fun at the same time,” Way explained. “I can’t say enough about how hard they have worked and wanted to learn and get better each and every practice.

“We are athletic and eager to get better,” he added. “It will be a learning process, but we will improve as the season goes along.”

Richmond’s swimmers met at FirstHealth Tuesday night and continued their rigorous training regimen in preparation for the season. Working on conditioning is key, Way noted, as endurance in the water is essential in his teams’ success. Assisting Way this season is Andy Shuler, who is a physical education teacher and assistant football coach at Richmond.

With the season set to begin Wednesday at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, where all SAC meets will take place, Way says that though he expects both of his teams to compete, but he also anticipates there to be tough competition from several other schools in the conference.

“Pinecrest, Jack Britt and Lumberton all have ‘traveling’ swimming teams that have swimmers with experience,” Way explained. “Pinecrest has a huge head start (because of a longer-tenured program), but we hope to be competitive with the rest of the conference.”

Richmond will also face rookie programs from Hoke County, Purnell Swett, Scotland and Seventy-First high schools.

While his swimmers may lack technical training in the pool, Way seems optimistic that the Raiders will put together a good season.


The Lady Raiders swim team listens to instruction from head coach Mike Way during Tuesday’s practice.

On the Lady Raiders’ team, Way boasts 12 girls, and says the ladies are so athletically talented when combined that it’s difficult to choose the best swimmers.

“The girls who race will be chosen by committee,” Way said. “All of them will help us, and not one of them will stand out above the others. This team has a lot of athleticism and depth, and will require a total team effort to win.”

Representing the ladies are seniors Brianna Baysek, Owen Bowers, Altman Griffin, Kathleen Pittman and Mackenzie Webb. Joining them are juniors Gabby Davis, Natalie Davis, Jenna Kubiak, Gabby Paone and Greyson Way, as well as sophomores Haleigh Poston and Aerial Spooner.

For the boys, as there are 11 of them, Way noted that they, too, are incredibly athletic and has the same expectations for them as their female counterparts. He also said that one particular swimmer has shown natural talent.

“Like the girls, the guys should swim well,” Way said. “I’m interested in seeing how Jimmy (Cooley) does. His times are low, and he hasn’t had any real experience or training. It’s impressive.

“I will have to work on balancing how much I use my top swimmers in different events so they don’t get tired,” Way commented.

The boys team is made up of seniors Cooley, Drew Grant, Dante Miller, Ben Morrison, Carter Roberson, Clint Snipes, Shane Summey and Griffin Thurman. It’s rounded out by juniors Brice Billingsley, Kevin Campos and Dakota Locklear.

Richmond’s swimmers will compete against the seven other SAC schools in a variety of events which consist of the: 50-meter freestyle, the 100-meter backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle, the 200-meter freestyle, freestyle relay, individual medley and medley relay, and conclude with the 400-meter freestyle and freestyle relay.

Way explained that his lineups are set for the opening meet, but can vary based on individual performances.

The Raiders will make their debut in the pool Wednesday night at O’Herron Pool in the PE Building on the campus of St. Andrews. The meet kicks off at 6:15 p.m.