ROCKINGHAM — The steps at Raider Stadium and the loop around Hinson Lake have provided the Richmond Senior High School cross country teams the perfect areas for preparation.
The Raider and Lady Raider runners will put their last month of training to the test later this week when they open their 2023 Sandhills Athletic Conference schedule.
Whether it be the winding hiking trails with a lake view, or the steep inclines on campus, Richmond’s teams are ready for what lies ahead because of their training.
Back this fall are second-year coaches Ashleigh Buie and Morgan Tedder. Establishing consistency with the coaching staff and the runners has led to a productive pre-season, which has seen the teams at work since the beginning of August.
The focus for Richmond’s runners hasn’t been just to cut down on times on their 3.2-mile races, as Buie and Tedder have implemented a series of diverse training techniques that mesh well with building a strong team culture.
Richmond has some of its rosters for both teams returning this season with just a few departures due to graduation. The boys will be without four-year runners Naaman Perakis, Christian Sanchez and Kodie Simmons, while the girls won’t have Jennifer Gomez or Sheccid Heaton.
With the main core coming back, and the team twice as big as it was a year ago with 23 runners (12 girls, 11 boys), the expectations are high for the Raiders and Lady Raiders.
During the pre-season, senior Zaviar Lowry and junior Mariana Mendez have emerged as the likely favorites to lead their respective teams.
Mendez returns for her third season with the Lady Raiders and is the top returning runner from last season. Her personal record stands at 25:10, which is something she hopes to improve on while making another strong run within the SAC and regionals.
Lowry, a first-year runner, has been equally impressive this summer while gearing up for what he hopes will be a successful season. He’s been the frontrunner during practices and has improved in the month leading up to the season.
Buie and Tedder also said newcomers junior Aaron Coleman and freshman Dayana Franco have also shown a lot of promise. Coleman was a state championship qualifier as a sophomore last spring and has made a smooth transition to running the longer distances.
Returners who are expected to also compete for the lineup are seniors Kaleigh Cloninger, Cain Hunsucker, Toby McInnis, juniors Nelly Cadena, Ella Munn, Alivia Webb and sophomores Ella Parker and Jake Richardson.
A total of 11 other runners are new this season — senior Ashley Canas, juniors Quanna Bostic, Jaxon Chavis, James Coicou, Landon Summerlin, sophomores Samantha Barnes, Angel Cristobal, Luke Gilliam, Cameron Gladden and freshmen Madyson Cloninger and Makensey Puckett.
The Raiders and Lady Raiders will open their season on Tuesday at Union Pines High School. Starting at 5 p.m., Lee County High School will also compete.
Below is the complete 2023 schedule for the Richmond boys’ and girls’ cross country teams. All meets are against SAC opponents and Richmond’s home meets are bold.
Aug. 29 @ Union Pines, Lee County
Sept. 5 vs. Hoke County, Southern Lee
Sept. 12 @ Southern Lee, Hoke County, Lee County
Sept.19 @ Lee County, Pinecrest
Sept. 28 @ Scotland, Hoke County, Lee County
Oct. 3 vs. Pinecest, Scotland
Oct. 10 @ Pinecrest, Hoke County
The Richmond Observer will continue its award-winning coverage of the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams this fall.