ROCKINGHAM — A new season of Richmond Senior High School swimming will begin next week, and with it, the expectation for more consistency.
Following an unorthodox season last winter that saw several meets canceled due to pool conditions, the Richmond boys’ and girls’ swim teams have set the bar high in 2023-24.
Entering its seventh season, the Richmond swimming program will be under the direction of first-year head coach Andy Shuler.
No stranger to the program, Shuler served as an assistant coach the past six seasons under former head coach, and current athletic director, Mike Way. Helping assist this year will be Ryan Mercer.
One of the biggest positives entering the new slate of meets, Shuler noted, was the growth of the program. Boasting more swimmers than in recent seasons, the Raiders and Lady Raiders each have 11 swimmers this winter.
Shuler expects both squads to be competitive against Sandhills Athletic Conference opponents in the six regular-season meets.
New this season, all of the meets will be held at the Leach Aquatic Center in Hoke County, replacing St. Andrews University as the host venue of the SAC’s meets.
The Raiders will be led by a couple of senior swimmers this year, including three-year returner Brent Humann.
The most veteran swimmer on the roster, and also versatile, Humann will compete in some of the more difficult events like the 500-yard freestyle and the 200-yard individual medley.
Joining him will be first-year senior swimmers Zay Lowry and foreign exchange student Matteo Rubbiano. Shuler said both swimmers have shown a lot of promise during the pre-season.
Other returners the Raiders will rely on this winter are junior Gavin Applewhite and sophomores Brandon and Conner Thrower. The three swimmers combined to help the Raiders in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles, as well as the 200-yard medley relay last year.
Newcomers include Jaxon Chavis (junior), Matt Leggett (senior), Michael Jurzyk, Zane Searcy (senior) and Chance Spivey (senior).
For the Lady Raiders, there are three returners — juniors Nelly Cadena and Alivia Webb, along with sophomore Presley Dawkins.
Last season, Dawkins competed in the 100 and 200-yard freestyles, events she is expected to compete in again. Cadena and Webb were both competitors in the 50-yard freestyle.
Seven of Richmond’s female swimmers are new this year. They include seniors Evie Howell, Caroline Hunsucker and Janiyah Neal, junior Jada Roberts, sophomores Samantha Barnes and Emma Humann, freshman Sulleigh Bruce and Natalie Richardson.
Shuler said much of the pre-season has been spent conditioning both teams in the pool. He added that the teams are using this time to figure out which event(s) each swimmer is best suited for.
Richmond will compete against the other six schools in the SAC, including perennial powerhouses Pinecrest and Union Pines high schools.
Though younger and less experienced, Shuler believes the Raiders and Lady Raiders will be able to remain competitive. He said a primary goal this season is for each swimmer to improve and for the program to grow as a whole.
SCHEDULE: Below is the complete 2023-24 schedule for the Richmond swimming teams. All of the meets are against SAC opponents and will be held at the Leach Aquatic Center.
Richmond’s “home meets” are marked by an asterisk. The host schools are listed for each meet.
Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. Hoke County, Union Pines
Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. Hoke County, Scotland
Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. Richmond, Southern Lee *
Jan. 10 at 6 p.m. Pinecrest, Union Pines
Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. Richmond, Scotland *
Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. Lee County, Pinecrest
Jan.27 at 10 a.m. SAC Championship Meet
The Richmond Observer will continue its award-winning coverage of the swimming teams this winter.