Thursday, 20 February 2020 19:08

Richmond Bowling Season Recap: Programs 'headed in the right direction'

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Head coach Ralph Butler said the Richmond bowling programs are "headed in the right direction" following the 2019-2020 season. Head coach Ralph Butler said the Richmond bowling programs are "headed in the right direction" following the 2019-2020 season. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — When the high school bowling season began, second-year head coach Ralph Butler thought the Richmond boys and girls programs could compete within one of the toughest conferences in the state.

With the season drawing to a close earlier this month, Butler’s prediction proved correct. The Raiders and Lady Raiders both finished their second consecutive bowling season with representatives at the state championship.

Just like last year, the Raiders qualified for the state competition as a team, while the Lady Raiders sent one bowler, senior Hailey Miller, to the individual tournament. The boys would finish fifth overall, while Miller finished in the top half of her field.

“I feel great about where the program is based off of the state results,” Butler said. “Our conference has shown the last two years that we have some of the most competitive bowlers in the state. 

“The Pinecrest girls won states last year, along with the boys for Lumberton,” he continued. “Lumberton's top female bowler posted back-to-back 279 games during the four-game single set this year, higher than anyone else there, boy or girl. Moving forward, I feel like if we can compete in our conference, it should translate well to the state tournament. 

This year at states, the Sandhills Athletic Conference had four boys teams place in the top five: Lumberton (2nd), Jack Britt (3rd), Hoke County (4th) and Richmond (5th). 

Butler added that making the state tournament is always a goal at the start of the season, so to have Miller qualify and send a female bowler, as well as the boys going as a team, “shows we're headed in the right direction.” 

The Raider bowlers collected some pretty significant wins during the regular season, beating Jack Britt in December and rallying to defeat rival Scotland twice, the second and third place SAC finishers. Butler noted the team “held its own” against Lumberton, which won the SAC title.

While the girls team was competitive throughout the season, Butler explained he’ll be without three bowlers next year due to graduation. Miller, Hannah Bennett and Kayla Howell, who was a two-year starter, saw their bowling careers close this month.

But the good news for the Lady Raiders is that juniors Autumn Hoffman and Josie Standridge will return next year for their third season. Both staples of the program, Hoffman finished third at the SAC singles tournament.

They’ll also bring back Cadence Thompson, who was only a freshman and had her best performance at the girls singles event for the conference. Butler said “those three should anchor the team and the hope is to get the team qualified next season” for states.

The Raiders underwent more of a rebuilding year, but didn’t lose much ground. Butler called their progress throughout the season outstanding.

“We only graduate Luke Preslar and return a bunch of guys who have an opportunity to qualify for the singles next season,” Butler said. “Rising seniors Mitchell Massey, Tyler Bittle, Joseph Grant and Hunter Hancock all have the ability to get hot. 

“We also have some young guys in William White, as well as Cameron Way and Cody Eason, who played significant roles this year,” he continued. “Their qualifying for the tournament shows the depth of the boys team right now. They all got hot at different times this year, and all did well at states. I’m excited about next season with this group.”

In a sport that is just in its third year at Richmond, Butler was pleased with its growth and success this winter, seeing each team sport 11 bowlers. This, along with everyone’s enjoyment of the game, was one of the lasting impacts of this year

“My biggest takeaway is how much the boys and girls truly enjoy it,” he said. “No one really realizes how much fun it is until you go do it. I’ve coached a lot of sports over the years and I tell people all the time that it’s the only one that when practice is over I have to eventually turn the lanes off to make them leave. 

“It’s that kind of enthusiasm that helps the program,” he closed. “As a coach in any sport, you want numbers. Numbers lead to competition, which leads to better team results. We’re at that point now.”

Last modified on Thursday, 20 February 2020 19:10

Kyle Pillar

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

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