The Raiders lost quite a few points with the graduation of thrower Kevin Alphonso, who routinely won both the shot put and discus events last season.
But Watkins is looking for several of his athletes to step up and take advantage of their opportunity to shine, including junior thrower Sayon Flowers, who should take over Alphonso’s top spot.
Alphonso, in fact, has been working with the Richmond throwers this week at practice, as he is home from spring break at Catawba College, where he plays football.
Another key performer for Richmond will be senior sprinter Kelvin Brewington, who will run the 100, 200, 4-by-100 and 4-by-200 relays.
Former Raider football player Walter Ellerbe will also compete in the sprints and sprint relays. Ellerbe is a returning regional qualifier in the 100-meter dash, where he finished seventh a year ago.
Ellerbe’s fellow former Raiders L.J. Stroman and John Rich will also be competing in track. Stroman will do the 100 and 200 sprint events, as well as the long and triple jumps.
Rich, meanwhile, will transition from hurdles to the 400-meter dash.
Watkins said he expects it to be a smooth transition for Rich, an excellent athlete and standout Raider football player who will play at UNC-Pembroke with Stroman next season.
“He’ll have to work on pacing himself, as opposed to focusing on the next hurdle,” Watkins said. “But he wanted to do it, and I think he will do well.”
Watkins - and women’s coach Phillip Waddell - both said they are grateful for the assistance they get from Richmond cross country coach Reggie Miller, who works with the Raider distance runners in the spring. Watkins also cited the work of volunteer assistant Eric Gould, who has been working with the sprinters.
Key distance runners for the Raiders will include senior Eli Locklear, who will compete in the 400 and 800, and junior Richard Lassiter, who will run the 1,600 and 3,200.
Watkins wants his team to take a step forward and move into the upper tier of the conference in 2011. Last season, the Raiders finished fourth at the conference meet.
“Last year, we were young,” Watkins said. “We’ve got another year of experience under our belt, and it should make a difference.”
Contact sports editor David Vantress at 997-3111, ext. 14 or by email at email@example.com.