With 114 participants on both teams (77 men and 37 women), first-year’s men’s coach Derrick Watkins was surprised the numbers remained so high.
“Normally, during the first couple practices, we run off a lot of them, especially with the conditioning,” Watkins said. “But they’re sticking with it and working hard. What I like is a lot of the football players are coming out for track. That’s where your speed comes on the field.”
Even with the large numbers, Watkins said he will not cut anybody, but will allow them to compete in practice to determine who will participate in meets.
“We definitely can’t dress everybody because we don’t have enough uniforms,” Watkins said. “What I’m going try to do is while they’re working out is give them the option of staying on the team as long as you’re working out. If your running times, put you in the top five or seven events then you will be able to travel.”
Senior Gabe Love is expected to be the Raiders’ standout. Love finished fourth in the men’s 400-meters at last year’s state championship on the campus of North Carolina A&T University.
“I really think he’s capable of competing for the state again, and hopefully winning it,” Watkins said. “As everyone has seen in football, he has tremendous speed and has the ability to be a state champion. Gabe is self-motivated and that’s where it starts, especially in track.”
Love was also a member of Richmond’s 4X100-meter team, which finished 14th in the state, as well as the 4X200-meter team.
According to Watkins, senior Jonathan Diggs, Love’s brother, is also capable of reaching the state championships in both the triple jump and 300-meter hurdles. Watkins thinks senior Devin Davis will have the chance to qualify for the state in the 400-or 800-meters.
Last season, the men’s team captured first-place in two events, but finished sixth in the Mid-Southeastern Conference meet. At the state championships, Richmond finished one point behind Pinecrest to finish 36th in the standings.
“We feel like the conference is up in the air, and with our motivation, I don’t see why we can’t win it,” Watkins said.
Women hoping to win with youth
The Lady Raiders track team returns 15 off last year’s squad, but the newcomers may have the most impact this season.
According to first-year women’s coach Phillip Waddell, freshmen Brittany Roberts, Jacque Brown, Kadisha Little and Rebecca Cox have been out-performing some of the upperclassmen in practice so far.
“A lot of those girls are showing promise, and are pushing themselves a lot harder than the upperclassmen,” Waddell said. “I’m looking at our group, and thinking we can get a lot of things done in the next few years. These freshmen want to be the first group to bring a state championship to Richmond.”
Waddell expects Crystal Bostick to be a state championship qualifier in the triple jump, while Victoria and Niesha Sledge will help anchor the relay teams and Latoya Wall to complete in the 400-meters and high jump.
“I want the upperclassmen that are leaving to instill a winning tradition, but I feel we’ve got some talent across the board,” Waddell said. “We may start off a little rocky, but we’re going to surprise some people towards the end of the season.”
The Richmond men’s and women’s track team opening meet is Thursday, March 12 at Scotland starting at 4 p.m.
Contact sports reporter Corey Davis at 997-3111, ext. 44; e-mail email@example.com