ROCKINGHAM — Head coach Reggie Miller believes the senior leadership shown this past season will bode well for his returning runners as they move forward in their respective careers.
The Richmond boys and girls cross country teams wrapped up the 2017 season at the NCHSAA 4A Regionals last weekend in Kernersville and were forced to say goodbye to a few seniors who embraced — and flourished in — their veteran roles.
Shelby Matheson was that presence for the girls team, while Dylan Richardson and Brandon Silva proved to be influential on the boys’ side of things. Though going about it in different ways, all three Raiders were able to leave their marks on a program that Miller believes will only get better as the years go by.
“It was a good season. I feel we got a lot of things accomplished,” he said. “They kind of came in an tutored the younger kids and it helped. The younger ones saw the work ethic and wanted to do just like they did.”
As Matheson was thriving as a leader, sophomore Ariel Brown was thriving on the course.
Brown put her talents on display, week in and week out, with numerous first-place finishes. The sophomore runner was “always striving for better” throughout the season and was rewarded at the end of the season with an all-conference nod.
She was able to record a personal-best time of 21:46 at the conference championship meet two weeks ago on a “tough course” in the Pinecrest Elk Lodge.
“What really helped her was running indoor and outdoor track (last season),” Miller said. “She’s a hard worker and she came in and kind of turned it up a notch this season.”
Silva sat out last season but came back for his senior year and didn’t miss a beat, as he was usually the lead runner for the boys squad — and was almost always followed by junior Zachariah Hamilton. The senior came, who missed a few races due to injury, also recorded his best time (17:52) at the conference championship meet.
“His return gave a boost to the boys team because he added leadership alongside Dylan,” Miller said of Silva.
Hamilton and sophomore Joey Nicholson will be a part of the boys’ returning crew that showed some promise this past season. On the girls side, freshman Gracelyn Weatherford — who had a number of top-10 finishes — will be a key part of the Lady Raiders’ experience next season.
“I’m definitely making sure that I recruit more kids. I only kept nine girls this year, and that can be tough because I had four girls injured,” Miller said. “But I’ll have some seasoned veterans next year and most of them are going to run track. So that’s going to help with their speed come cross-country time, and then we can get to work on their distance.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.