Monday, 12 August 2019 22:01

Richmond cross country teams battle heat in preparation for season

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Members of the boys' and girls' cross country team ran three miles during Monday's practice at Hinson Lake. Members of the boys' and girls' cross country team ran three miles during Monday's practice at Hinson Lake. Kyle Pillar — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — The shade of the inner loop running trail at Hinson Lake provided members of the Richmond Senior High School boys’ and girls’ cross country teams a break from the heat Monday, as both teams continued pre-season practices.

Over a dozen runners turned out for practice, racing around the 1.5-mile course twice in preparation for the upcoming season. Coaching the boys’ team is veteran head coach Reggie Miller, while new to coaching the girls’ team this fall is Jessie Covington, who replaces former head coach Shellie Wimpey.

Cross country, unlike many of the five other fall programs at the high school, doesn’t start its season until mid-September. That gives the Raiders and Lady Raiders plenty of time to get in shape to contend for a Sandhills Athletic Conference title in 2019.

“Things are going pretty good,” Miller commented. “We started on June 17 with summer workouts, and a lot of kids have been coming out and working hard. There are four boys returning, so I’m hoping they have that same mentality of getting in reps and staying motivated.

“I’ve been pleased with how hard they’re working right now and we’re just taking it one day at a time,” he added. “They’re improving as a team and working together, and that’s what’s going to make a good team.”

Returning this fall are seniors Joey Nicholson and Devon Tillman and juniors Carson Jordan and Will Thompson. Looking to join in the success of the program is freshman Kody Simmons.

On the girls’ side, senior Airel Brown is the frontrunner, looking to build off an impressive junior year. Other returners include seniors Abby Calhoun and Analee Wyand, juniors Breanna Ball, Alena Craddock and Zamiya McInnis. New to the team this fall are sophomore Maylyn Wallace and freshman Sheccid Heaton.

Two-year starter and current junior Gracelyn Weatherford suffered an injury last school year and is currently waiting to be cleared to run this year.

“The girls are working hard, too,” Miller added. “Airel is one of our strongest runners, so we hope she’ll have a strong senior season. Alena is returning, and the girls have great numbers so far.”

Coach Reggie Miller clocks Airel Brown as she finishes her first of two laps at Hinson Lake during Monday’s practice.

Both teams will continue to workout in the weeks leading up to the season opener on Sept. 10 at Purnell Swett High School. Practices will not consist of just running long distances at Hinson Lake, but will be mixed in with interval training, which will include pushups, core workouts, burpees and planks.

“Core workouts and speed workouts are also big helpers for cross country,” Miller explained. “With this sport, 3.1 miles is really a fast race. Coach Covington and I have discussed having them run 800-meter repeats -- in the past we’ve been more successful with using short distance drills.

“We’re also going to try and come in and do more exercises,” he added. “Talking to the kids motivationally always helps because its gives them a better understanding of the sport and what they need to do to get better. Cross country is all about staying balanced with your pace.”

During Monday’s practice, Jordan, Nicholson, Brown, Heaton and Thompson had the top five times, respectively, during the first mile and a half. Jordan finished in 9:34, followed by Nicholson (9:42), Brown (11:37), Heaton (12:26) and Thompson (12:30).

Miller closed by praising Covington for making a quick transition to the coaching staff. Covington will serve as one of the high school’s strength training teachers, and Miller noted he’s “happy Coach Covington has come on board” and that “having two coaches is better for the program.”

ROSports will feature the cross country teams in an official season preview later this fall.

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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