ROCKINGHAM — Reggie Miller and the Richmond indoor track team recently wrapped up an “excellent” season, one in which they sent a girl to the state championships and caught of glimpse of what’s to come in the future.
Not to mention that the experience gained throughout the past four months will only help the Lady Raiders as they prepare for the much-anticipated outdoor track and field season — which officially begins late next week.
“I told most of the girls that if they wanted to get better, they have to run indoor because that’s kind of like the basic training (in track). They can’t sit and wait for outdoor track to start,” Miller said. “And it worked because all of my girls got faster.”
Miller saw a major jump in the number of athletes willing to join the indoor squad, as the roster more than doubled from last year, and Richmond ended the 2017-18 season with 28 names. Among those were junior Crystal Johnson and sophomores Monasia Kearns and Kibreanna Stewart.
Johnson was the lone Lady Raider who qualified for states — which will take place at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem on Saturday. The junior participated in the shot-put competition and punched her ticket to the big stage at Eastern Alamance, the third meet of the season, back in early December.
She not only came in first place at that one meet, but finished with or tied for the team’s highest individual finish on four occasions.
“She’s a terrific kid, a hard worker, never misses practice and always wants to get better. I wish I would’ve had her during her 10th-grade year,” Miller said of Johnson, who just completed her first indoor season. “She came out this year and did what she had to do. She’s at her peak right now and is already where she needs to be heading into the outdoor season.”
Kearns and Stewart just missed out on their chances at the states in the 55-meter run and the high jump, respectively.
In last week’s season finale, Kearns ran what she and Miller believed to be a qualifying time (7.30 seconds). The host school, Cuthbertson, didn’t possess a fully automatic timer (FAT), however, and Kearns was docked by almost a second when her time was converted over — leaving the sophmore on the outside looking in.
Stewart, on the other hand, was just two inches away from qualifying in the high jump. She came on strong for Richmond in her second year on the track by posting a pair of first- and second-place finishes.
“These girls weren’t even placing in our meets last year. And if they did, they would finish in the lowest place to get one point (for the team),” Miller said. “So to see them go from last to is first has been a big plus. That helps build their confidence, because now they see that they can run with the talent.
“I’m just dying to see how much more they can peak during the outdoor season,” he continued. “They are the future. If they stick with plan … I feel like they’re going to be some of the top (track athletes) in the state. But they’ve got to want it.”
Although they won’t be saying goodbye just yet, the Lady Raiders only had two seniors on the roster in Harmony Jones and Tyra Strong.
Jones was a member of the 4×200 relay team alongside Kearns, Maddisyn Diggs and Dymond McNeal. Together, they collected two first-place finishes and came in second place three times. The 4×200 squad recorded the 15th-best overall time of every classificiation in North Carolina, but was excluded from the states due to NCHSAA only taking 10 girls teams this time around — as opposed to bringing in “about 23-25 boys teams in the same event.”
“I’m still proud of what these kids did. They went out there and fought this cold weather all season long (during practice),” Miller said. “That let me know that when the spring time comes … they’re going to be that much better.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.