Locklear’s world title takes No. 1

Hamlet gymnast’s victory leads Super 7 Sports/Outdoors Stories of the Year

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

In a place calling Nanning, Ashton Locklear helped make history.

Photo by Xinhua / Wang Yuguo | English.Sina.com Ashton Locklear of Team USA performs on the uneven bars during the women's team final of the 45th Gymnastics World Championships in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Oct. 8, 2014. Team USA won the title with a total of 179.280 points.

Photo by Xinhua / Wang Yuguo | English.Sina.com
Ashton Locklear of Team USA performs on the uneven bars during the women’s team final of the 45th Gymnastics World Championships in Nanning, capital of south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Oct. 8, 2014. Team USA won the title with a total of 179.280 points.

Locklear, 16, of Hamlet, and the U.S. Women’s Team made USA Gymnastics history by winning the USA’s second consecutive World team title at the 2014 World Championships at the Guangxi Sports Center Gymnasium in southern China.

Locklear placed fourth overall on the uneven bars.

The USA led the entire competition, winning by a convincing 6.693 margin over runner-up China. Russia rounded out the top three. Team USA won the vault, uneven bars and floor exercise — three of four events in the women’s team final.

Top Sports/Outdoors Stories of the Year were decided by a two-person panel which included staff writers Kevin Spradlin and Nick Beggs. The list of 23 potential stories was whittled down to 12, then the Super 7 with the next three getting Honorable Mention.

It wasn’t an easy list to compile. Instead of only athletic-based performances, also under consideration were outdoor recreation stories that have both short- and long-term impacts on the Richmond County community.

This is the seventh of an eight-part series to close out the year, looking back on the top videos, news and sporting events of 2014. There’s one more to go:

Dec. 24 — By the numbers: Top videos of the year
Dec. 25 —  By the numbers: Top Sports/Outdoor stories
Dec. 26 —  By the numbers: Top News stories
Dec. 27 —  Super 7 Business stories
Dec. 27 — Fantastic 15 Photos of the Year
Dec. 28 — Super 7 Feel-good stories
Dec. 29 — Super 7 Sports stories
Dec. 30 — Super 7 Stories of the Year – final

On with the program …

No. 2* — Raider baseball clinches 4A East Region championship

^ Photo gallery

Denied a trip to the state tournament in each of the past two years, Richmond Senior’s varsity baseball squad followed through this year with a 23-7-1 record en route and took the final two games of a three-game set against Millbrook to — finally — earn a berth in the Class 4A state championship series for the first time since 2000.

Photo by Tami Brown Richmond Raiders players celebrate their Class 4A East Region win over Millbrook in a best-of-three series, earning a berth in the state championship series.

Photo by Tami Brown
Richmond Raiders players celebrate their Class 4A East Region win over Millbrook in a best-of-three series, earning a berth in the state championship series.

After a 6-5 East Region tournament-opening loss to Millbrook, the Raiders kept the final two games low-scoring affairs and finished on the favorable end of 2-0 and 2-1 ballgames. In extra innings, the Wildcats walked in the winning run. James Buie threw a complete game, striking out four, for the win.

Mike Rush led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single and stole second base. Bradley Brown drew a walk, and Buie was hit by a pitch. One out, bases loaded. With a new pitcher on the mound, Ethan Baucom drew a game-winning walk.

In the best-of-three state title match against West Forsyth, the Titans overwhelmed the Raiders in Greensboro by allowing six runs in the first four innings en route to a 6-3 defeat.

Richmond dropped Game 1 by a 6-4 count and evened the series at one game apiece with an 8-7 win.

Bradley Brown boasted a team-high .388 batting average with 20 runs batted in. Pitcher Nic Bullard finished with a 9-3 won-loss record, one save and a 1.84 earned run average. Bullard struck out 91 batters in 82 2/3 innings and walked only 31. Both players earned selection to the North Carolina Coaches Association Class 4A All-State team.

The Raiders finished with a 24-9-1 record.

No. 3* — Raider softball wins 28 in a row

Except for one hiccup, the Richmond Raiders softball team was all about the victory in 2014.

Under the supervision of coach Wendy Wallace, hurler Summer Jacobs led Richmond to a 28-1 record, including a 10-0 record in Southeast Conference play, to a fourth-round Class 4A playoff contest against Cape Fear. There, the Raiders dropped a 2-1 ballgame to Cape Fear that eliminated the team from further consideration. All three runs in the game were scored in the ninth inning.

Still, it’s a season Raider fans are unlikely to forget anytime soon. It’s a campaign that included 28 consecutive victories. In that streak, the Raiders posted 10 shutouts and outscored their opponents 209-47.

Eight Raiders earned nods to the North Carolina Coaches Association Class 4A All-State team: Jessica Steen, Hunter Parks, Jennifer Steen, Chelsea Davis, Doodle Jacobs, Katie Satterfield, Jacobs and Ashton Davenport.

On the mound, Jacobs went 27-1 with a 1.24 ERA. She struck out 160 batters in 185 2/3 innings. At the plate, she hit .400 and led Richmond with 29 RBIs and added 10 doubles.

Offensively, the team was led by Davis’ seven home runs and Jacobs’ .554 batting average. Davis also scored 43 runs and tallied 62 hits, only seven shy of the single-season state record.

No. 4* — Raider boys’ soccer ties team record with 16 wins

SEC Coach of the Year Bennie Howard and the Raiders soccer club tied a school record with 16 wins and won a share of the conference title (with Pinecrest). Richmond finished with a 16-3 mark, including a 9-1 won-loss record in the Southeast Conference. Seven of those 16 wins were shutouts.

Photo by Linda Robson Raiders coach Bennie Howard talks with A.J. Massage before a contest.

Photo by Linda Robson
Raiders coach Bennie Howard talks with A.J. Massage before a contest.

The Raiders stunned then second-ranked Pinecrest 2-1 on Oct. 13. Ten days later, the Patriots exacted their revenge with a 2-1 loss.

Joseph Griffith earned SEC Goalkeeper of the Year honors and senior forward Sergio Chaparro — with a team-best 21 goals — became the first male Raider soccer player named to the North Carolina Coaches Association Class 4A All-State team. Jalon Almond added 12 goals for Richmond.

The Raiders’ stellar season was brought to an abrupt end in a 3-0 first-round Class 4A playoff loss to West Forsyth.

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No. 5 — Hitchcock Creek a ‘trail of discovery’

ROCKINGHAM — Tuesday, May 13 was a good day to be connected to the city of Rockingham.

Some might point out that any day is such a day, but for the dozens gathered ’round at the old Pee Dee Mill site at 615 Steele St., there couldn’t have been one better. At 4 p.m., dozens of local officials, city employees and dignitaries far and wide gathered to celebrate the official ribbon-cutting for Hitchcock Creek, a 3.67-mile stretch of blue trail from the Roberdel access point off Nicholson Road to downtown Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris guides his kayak through some rapids as he approaches the take-out point along Hitchcock Creek at Steele Street.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris guides his kayak through some rapids as he approaches the take-out point along Hitchcock Creek at Steele Street.

The ceremony marked the effort that goes back to a vision City Manager Monty Crump had around 2001.

“This is a long journey that we’ve been on,” said Michael “Squeak” Smith, board chairman for Resource Institute Inc. Resource Institute was one of more than three dozen partners, including government agencies, private foundations and businesses as well as individuals, who helped make the vision a reality.

Crump opened the ceremony with words of welcome, thanks and a bit of incredulity that the vision came to life.

“Pulling this project together, with all of these moving parts, has been incredible,” Crump said. “I’m speaking to folks who don’t need to be told this … it’s just phenomenal what the results are.”

There’s little down the Hitchcock Creek will help Rockingham and Richmond County become a destination getaway for those looking hit the water. Paddlers can put in at Roberdel and stop at the Steele Street access for a bite to eat — about three-quarters of a mile walk — before returning to their kayaks or canoes and going to Diggs Tract, camping and then on south along the Pee Dee River.

No. 6 — Dragway to go under NHRA umbrella in 2015

Steve Earwood announced Nov. 6 that Rockingham Dragway, one of the most iconic drag racing facilities in the country, will operate under the sanction of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) beginning Jan. 1, and will host one of the Southeast Division races in that organization’s Lucas Oil Series.

DragwayThe move allows the dragway to return to its racing roots.

“The NHRA Sportsman program historically has been the very foundation of drag racing,” Earwood said, “and we believe it is trending upward right now.”

Officials praised the move.

I’m sure Sportsman racers throughout the Southeast are thrilled by this announcement,” said NHRA Division Director Rich Schaefer, “because it gives them a chance to race at a great facility with lots of heritage.”

Earwood’s personal life is already intertwined with his professional one, with all the hours he puts in. But this connection goes way back.

“I got hooked on NHRA drag racing reading Wally Parks’ column in Hot Rod when I was 13 years old,” Earwood said. “Plus, I was NHRA’s public relations director during one of the most exciting times in the sport’s history (1975-1982).  As a result, the NHRA has been a big part of my professional and personal life.”

Rockingham Dragway also has an NHRA past.  From 1989 through 1998, it hosted the biggest NHRA event outside of the national championship series.  That race, the NHRA Winston Invitational, paid a bigger pro purse than the national events which is why the list of past champions includes drivers like John Force, Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, Joe Amato and Connie Kalitta.

No. 7 — Lawn mower racing in Ellerbe, Marston

ELLERBE — If anyone had the notion that lawn mower racing didn’t have a following, they were quickly corrected on June 14 when the Ellerbe Lions Club suspended racing indefinitely. The source of the suspension was a dispute between Lions Club officials and former track manager Kermit Perkins.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Opening night on Aug. 16 of the Still Waters Mow Down Seriesin Marston was a success.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Opening night on Aug. 16 of the Still Waters Mow Down Seriesin Marston was a success.

The period of time turned out to be a little more than two months. After rain washed out the planned Aug. 10 return. The Aug. 24 return, however, was just as good.

The whole episode might have been a positive for Richmond County, as Perkins went to manage a new venue in Marston and Rex Crouch Jr. and Wayne Taylor Jr. took over the job in Ellerbe. Time will tell, but one thing seems immediately clear: so long as there’s a venue for lawn mower racing here, there will be plenty of competitors and spectators.

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Honorable Mention

The NGA Raiders went 9-0 this year and 16-0 over the past two seasons. What puts this accomplishment over other undefeated seasons is that the coaching staff does this with a different group of student-athletes each year. Impressive.

It was a toss-up, between HM 1 and HM 2. The JV Raiders beat Scotland 48-20 to complete a 10-0 season. It is the program’s third consecutive undefeated season. The post-game celebration also provided the material sufficient to make the list of Fantastic 15 Photos of the Year on PeeDeePost.com.

Rockingham Middle School stomped visiting Carver 36-16 to secure the school’s first conference title since Richmond County moved from the junior high model in 2008. The game also provided the material for the fourth-ranked photo in the Post’s Fantastic 15 Photos of the Year.

* Editor’s note: A hat tip to MaxPreps.com, HighSchoolOT.com and the Richmond County Daily Journal for baseball, softball and soccer statistics. Readers, just wait until the Post begins full-time sports coverage. You’re gonna love it.

 

Filed in: Announcements, Ellerbe/Norman, Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors, Rockingham, Sports

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