ROCKINGHAM — If you were to ask head coach Reggie Miller what he thinks about the current indoor track season, he would tell you that things are “right where they need to be.”
The Lady Raiders, according to Miller, have “improved tremendously” since last season and are showing that they can stack up with some of the best programs in the state. They’ve proved themselves in meets with Hillside (Durham), who won the 4A title last year, and a Cummings (Burlington) program that once won five straight 2A state championships.
Richmond has yet to finish in first place as a team this season, but has used numerous top-five individual performances to boost its confidence as the year progresses. Miller believes things can only get better from here.
“Last year, a lot of them were just learning the basic fundamentals and sometimes woudn’t even place in the meet. Now they’re placing in the top three,” Miller said. “They’ve improved because they come to the workouts and they work out on their own. Just them taking track seriously has really helped.”
Sophomore Kibreanna Stewart has stepped up to the plate this season after being forced into the team’s No. 1 spot in the high jump, due to former teammate Kennedy Alexander — conference champion and state qualifier — transferring to Mallard Creek over the summer.
The sophomore opened the season with a second-place finish at Eastern Alamance and has since grabbed a couple of first-place finishes at the same venue. She topped the high jump last Thursday, Dec. 14, and then again on Tuesday, Dec. 19.
“She’s been very important. She’s coming in with wins and that has helped us a lot,” Miller said of Stewart. “That’s letting her know that she can compete with (top) competition.”
The only other Lady Raider to come in first place in an individual event this season is Crystal Johnson, who helped Stewart lead the team to a runner-up finish last week. Johnson competes in the shot put and has already qualified for states.
Stewart and Johnson aren’t the only two Richmond runners who have impressed Miller so far, however, as most of his girls have shown flashes in recent meets — whether it’s Maddisyn Diggs and Monasia Kearns in the 55-meter run, Harmony Jones and Dymond McNeal in relays, or Shelby Matheson and Ariel Brown in middle-distance runs.
Kearns placed second in the 55-meter run earlier this month at Reid Ross and Jones helped the 4×200 realy team finish second last Thursday, the same day Brown finished the 1600-meter run in third place.
“These girls have been working hard. Not only with me, but in their strength and conditioning class,” Miller said. “I’ve been hearing about the competition between these girls and they don’t want to lose to one another. So they just bring that same kind of energy to practice.”
Richmond won’t run again until Saturday, Jan. 13, because of the Christmas Break, but Miller plans on keeping his runners in shape over the next three weeks. He held a two-hour workout, focusing on speed and agility, for the team’s sprinters Thursday morning, and expects to do so again next Wednesday.
“It can hurt if you allow them to not get their workouts in,” Miller said of the lenghty break. “But I’ve got kids who won’t sit around, though. They’re going to put the work in.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at email@example.com. For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.