Individually, Gabe Love will compete in both the 200- and 400-meter dash and Markus Diggs will run in the 200 meters. The Raiders’ 4x200- and 4x400-meter relay teams also qualified for the state.
Love will be the busiest Raider at the state meet. Along with his involvement in the 200 and 400-meter dash, Love will run the anchor leg of Richmond’s 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams.
“I know it’s going to be a long day for me, but we’ve been working hard in practice and I’m going to do the best I can,” Love said. “Plus, they give us long breaks after an event and that will help me rest and gain my energy back.”
At the Mid-Southeastern Conference championship meet, Love finished second in the 400 meters and did even better in the regional championship by coming in first with a time of 49.60. Love was Richmond’s lone state qualifier last year in the 400 meters. In the preliminaries, Love had the second fastest time, but finished fourth in the finals.
“Gabe knows what to expect from the competition at the state,” Raiders coach Derrick Watkins said. “If he doesn’t finish in the top three, I would be disappointed.”
If Love doesn’t place in the top three in the 400-meter dash, his second individual opportunity will be in the 200 meters. Love struggled at the conference meet, placing seventh. But Love redeemed himself at the regionals, finishing second with a time of 22:39.
According to Love, he battled a lingering headache that surfaced the eve of the regional when he experienced dizzy symptoms at school. He said was able to take medicine before competing which helped ease the symptoms so he could race.
“He wasn’t feeling well, but stepped up, ran well in his individual meets and also helped us in the relay races,” Watkins said. “It’s good to know he is running to his potential going into the state.”
Diggs joins Love in the 200-meter dash. Just like Love, Diggs bounced back from a tough showing in the conference meet to place high in the regional. Diggs finished sixth in the conference meet, but was third in the regional behind Love with a time of 22.41.
“For a while, Markus wasn’t running up to his potential,” Watkins said. “Going into the regional, I told Markus we want to place. He came out of the blocks and ran the whole race instead of just running five or six meters. If he runs the way he is capable of, Markus should have a good showing at the state.”
Diggs is shocked to be a state qualifier, considering this was his first year participating on the track team.
“To be honest, I didn’t think I would make it this far,” Diggs said. “The coaches have done a good job of pushing me and getting me to this point. I know the competition is going to be tough. I feel the key is how well I’ll do going around that curve.”
Diggs and Love are both part of the Raiders’ 4x200 and 4x400-meter relay teams. The 4x200 team consists of Justin Jackson as the first leg, Diggs runs the second leg, Alex Ingram runs the third leg and Love finishes off the race.
The Raiders finished first with a time of 1:29.09 at the MSEC tourney and was second at the regional with a time of 1:29.84.
“Those guys really have the will to win,” Watkins said. “They were behind in the regional, but made up ground and ended up making it the state. They have great chemistry between them. If you watch them prepare, they are always communicating and making suggestions to each other to help the group go faster.”
Devin Davis starts off the 4x400 relay team, while Scottie Brewington receives the baton from Davis as the second leg, followed by Diggs and Love. The 4x400 relay team finished third at the conference tournament with a time of 3:27.17, and also placed third at the regional at 3:24.89.
“What I like about the 4x400 team is that their time from the conference tournament to the regional decreased,” Watkins said. “Devin has ran the first leg consistent all year. When he hands the baton off, we’ve been in the lead or in the race. Scottie has stepped in also and been a strong leg. With Gabe and Markus, we’ve got two of the top four runners in the 200 meters.”
Watkins knows both relay teams must be sharp in their execution in order to place high in the state.
“Like I told them, the group with the least amount of mistakes is going to win it,” Watkins said. “So far, we’ve been consistent in our hand-offs, but there have been meets where we have bobbled the baton and still ended up finishing in the top three. However, we can’t have that happen at the state or it will hurt us.”
Watkins hopes his guys give a maximum effort and represent the school well.
“You’ve got to know this is my last opportunity to run, and it’s nothing after this,” Watkins said. “I expect with the competition and the adrenaline running high that they’re going to give their all and I hope that’s good enough to bring back some hardware.”
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