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Richardson quietly stepping up for Northern Nash

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Northern Nash's Jordan Richardson sprints to the finish line Saturday during the Knights Invitational at Red Oak Middle School.

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By ETHAN JOYCE
Sports Writer

Sunday, September 10, 2017

RED OAK — Jordan Richardson trotted across the finish line at 16:34. 

The Northern Nash junior came in seven seconds ahead of the field to win the Knights Invitational on Saturday. Last cross country season, a slew of his teammates would have been in soon after.

The Knights lost a trio of prominent contributors who decided to focus on different things. Those losses bumped some younger runners into higher expectations.

Even after those departures, the Northern Nash boys’ cross country program is healthy and building yet again. The Knights finished second to 4-A school Leesville Road in the 16th installment of the invitational. Northern Nash junior Joseph Dees finished 12th, and two more Knights runners came in the top 35. 

Northern Nash cross country coach Jeff Dodrill looked at the time sheet after the meet and grinned. It was around 1 p.m., just before results were officially announced to the 21 schools competing. 

“This is a building block,” Dodrill said. “They are going to be excited seeing what they did today.”

That’s because his runners are going strong already. Will Raynor, who finished 33rd, ran an 18:32. That blew through his personal best by a minute. Dodrill said that fellow Knights runner Coley Corbin charged out early, and Raynor latched on to his pace. Corbin came up lame later on, finishing slower at 22 minutes, but Raynor kept up the speed.

Dodrill said recently that Corbin ran a low-19 time. Richardson and Dees ran within about 10 seconds of their PRs on Saturday. Matt Wright matched his best. The bigger meets bring better competition, Dodrill said, and all of his runners embraced the challenge. In order to be competitive at regionals, which the Knights have won the last three seasons, Dodrill said the team will need five runners under 17:50 to do it again. 

They want to keep that streak going, but Dodrill is trying to ease his new performers into their roles.

“I don’t want to put pressure on the kids,” Dodrill said. “It has to be fun and enjoyable for them. When they get to the race, it is about them running fast, not that they have to do this. 

“Some of them feel that pressure, and they each respond differently.”

Richardson and Dees, the team’s top two runners, took on team leadership after the roster thinned out. Dees is more vocal, and the mild-mannered Richardson has tried to be like that, too. Richardson finished 14th at the 3-A state meet last season.

“At first, I was a bystander,” Richardson laughed. “Coach told me that I had to step it up this year.

“I am passive, but I am active if I have to be. Most of the time, I let them do what they need to do and make sure they are on task.”

Richardson is hoping to run in the low 15s by the end of the season. He expects his teammates can reel in their times, too. Dodrill thinks he can work the team down as long as the runners remain excited. He doesn’t see that changing. 

“We are heading in the right direction going into conference meet, championship, and get to regionals and see what we can do,” Dodrill said. “We pulled it off last year by eight points, so the challenge is there for those guys.”

OF NOTE

- The Rocky Mount High boys’ cross country team finished seventh out of 17 teams.

- The Northern Nash girls’ cross country team finished sixth out of 14 teams. 

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