Richmond XC: Blood, sweat and tears

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery: More than 500 pics!
* Video – Cameron, Cody, Kayley and Brandi
* Season schedule – PDF

ROCKINGHAM — The old saying around veteran cross country runners is that participants in this sport does what other sports do for punishment. There’s even a T-shirt to that effect.

Day in, day out, they run laps, mile repeats, fartleks or long distance runs to complete their various phases of training. They put in blood, sweat and on Monday, more than one shed tears at Hinson Lake as the Richmond Senior High School Raiders squad conducted a preseason 5K time trial.

Reggie Miller, a 44-year-old is now in in his sixth year at the helm of Richmond Senior High School’s boys and girls cross country teams, oversees everything. On Monday, more than two dozen runners turned out for a 3.1-mile time trial. Two loops around Hinson Lake. With the humidity having cleared the day before, it felt almost like Autumn for the runners.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com The Richmond Raiders girls' cross country team is expected to be led by sophomore Cameron Hudson, but a 1-2-3 pack will benefit the squad in the team standings.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
The Richmond Raiders girls’ cross country team is expected to be led by sophomore Cameron Hudson, but a 1-2-3 pack will benefit the squad in the team standings.

Of the 26 runners to participate, many of them are freshmen or sophomores. While the overwhelming majority shaved off time from a previous pre-season time trial — some by three minutes, throughout all four grades — the focus is on a youth movement. Miller eyes the Raiders’ future.

He sees the talent up and down the roster. He hesitates to think of the potential, only a year or two away. Maybe less.

“You can’t build off seniors,” Miller said of inheriting a senior-laden program six years ago. “If you want to build, you build young.”

Several of his top runners are underclassmen. “That’s something you can build off of,” Miller said.

While seniors will always provide a level of experience and leadership the younger runners can’t offer, a coach can’t help but look towards the younger group and wonder what might be. Even senior Cody Mabe, a four-year cross country veteran, realizes that a healthy mix of younger talent could finally help the Raiders unseat Pinecrest as Southeast Conference champions for the past 22 years.

As Miller himself ages another year before the start of the Raiders’ season — the first meet is at home, at 5 p.m. Sept. 2 at Hinson Lake — he figures an older dog can learn new tricks. He recently completed USTAF Level 1 certification training as a coach. The whole idea, he said, is to learn more and bring it back to the team.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com While is wife his about to be discharged from a Durham hospital, Raiders cross country coach Reggie Miller devotes his spare time to teaching student-athletes how to compete in the sport of running.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
While is wife his about to be discharged from a Durham hospital, Raiders cross country coach Reggie Miller devotes his spare time to teaching student-athletes how to compete in the sport of running.

Miller knows what it takes to win. He ran on the Raiders’ squad from 1985 to 1988. The team had talent his junior year.

“My 11th grade year, we had a good team,” Miller said as he coached the runners through form as they finished their first of a two-lap time trial across the levee at Hinson Lake. “My senior year, we had a great team.”

That squad, Miller said, won the region championship and was favored to win the state title as well. But the Raiders missed out and finished second.

He offers sound advice to one group, one runner in particular, at the start of the 5K time trial.

“Don’t you start out like you’re running the 100-yard dash,” Miller warned.

In distance running, that approach rarely ends well.

Changing focus

It’s not an easy time for Miller and his family.

Coaching high school cross country isn’t a top priority, no matter how dedicated he is to providing each athlete the time and attention he or she needs. His wife underwent a life-threatening operation over the summer. It was unexpected to say the least.

Official practices began Aug. 1. Miller, a member of the classified staff at Leak Street High School who teaches online courses, would spent most of his time in Durham but travel back twice a week for practice. He couldn’t let down the team. They needed him.

While his wife is expected to be released from the hospital on Wednesday. Miller told the team Monday that practice for that day is canceled. Though disappointed, he announced the cancelation with a smile.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Racing to win is one part coach's instruction, one part wanted by the runner himself.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Racing to win, or simply bettering one’s own time from before, is one part coach’s instruction, one part wanted by the runner himself.

“I can sleep a whole lot better,” he said, with his wife at home.

Putting in time

Miller’s dedication this offseason could serve as a catalyst for his athletes to be inspired and motivated to work that much harder. After all, if his wife can pull through her experience, and if he can still make it to practice all but once, then so can they.

Most of the newer runners have yet to figure it out, but their success fall season didn’t hinge on whether or not they showed up for practice on Aug. 1. It started long before that. It’s about putting in the miles in the offseason. It’s about racing against the best, later this year, that’ll make you better. Building a summer base. Hills. Speedwork. None of it can be avoided if a runner wants to improve.

“Anybody can be a distance runner,” Miller said. “My mom can get out there and jog, but if he doesn’t mix in some speed, she won’t get any faster.”

But Miller is quick to note he welcomes any one, of any class and any ability — so long as they’re willing to put in the work.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A second group of Raiders cross country runners begin their 5K time trial on Monday at Hinson Lake.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A second group of Raiders cross country runners begin their 5K time trial on Monday at Hinson Lake.

“Some of them are not distance runners, but you still coach them,” Miller said. “You’ve just got to run.”

Still, the effort of some athletes to go the extra mile — pardon the pun — during summer break will likely pay dividends this fall season. Cody and Kayley Mabe, along with Cameron Hudson and Brandi Miller all attended a Wide Open XC Camp at Ridge Haven Conference and Retreat Center in Brevard earlier this month.

They ran in the mountains. They learned about racing, nutrition — and the importance of taking time to recover. They got tougher. They got better because they wanted to.

Student-athletes 

Of the term “student-athletes,” student comes first. It’s something Miller takes seriously. And compared to some other sports, Miller is at an advantage. He doesn’t have to deal with attitude problems. He doesn’t deal with those who don’t want to work.

Those without a solid work ethic will eventually stop showing up altogether, leaving, Miller said, “your doctors and lawyers” of tomorrow.

But today, they are still developing. One crossed the finish line of the 3.1-mile time trial and indicates a pain near her left calf muscle. Miller recommends she go see the school’s athletic trainer, not on site, when she can. Another runner falls to the ground after crossing the finish line.

“I can’t breathe,” he says, huffing and puffing — breathing uncontrollably, but breathing just the same.

After a moment or two to catch his breath, the runner pops up and heads toward Rotary Lodge to rejoin the group, to stretch and to begin a cool down loop around the lake.

Another runner finishes his 5K time trial at the bridge. His shoes are a fluorescent yellow, blue and — blood red. He shows Miller, wincing in slight pain as he does so. The runner is wearing anklet socks that don’t offer much protection from friction creating from the movement of the foot inside the shoe. Ankle socks might do the trick, Miller and parent volunteer Diane Mabe advise.

And the lessons continue.

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, Sports

You might like:

GAP program fills a hole for ‘hands-on’ experience GAP program fills a hole for ‘hands-on’ experience
Sit back for an ‘interesting story’ Sit back for an ‘interesting story’
Cash available for crime-solving tips Cash available for crime-solving tips
Rotruck sues Town of Summerfield Rotruck sues Town of Summerfield
© 2020 The Pee Dee Post. All rights reserved. XHTML / CSS Valid.