by Andrew Stark
Rocky River softball gets first wins in program history
After going winless in its initial season of play last year, the Rocky River softball team recently picked up the first two wins in program history.
On March 21 the Ravens took out Vance for their first-ever win and added another victory over Harding on March 28. Coach Mark Harman is pleased with not only the wins but how the Ravens have fought hard to improve all season.
“It is hard to say just one thing we have improved on because we have gotten better in so many areas,” Harman said. “We are getting a lot better in the field, and our error totals have gone way down. We are getting more three-up-three-down innings, and we are starting to learn to hold runners on base better.”
While the Ravens have vastly improved on defense, Harman also said base running and decision-making have gotten dramatically better.
There have been several standout players who have made the Ravens’ season a good one despite losing more games than they’ve won.
Harman said pitcher Tiffany Carter would probably rather be playing in the field but is the Ravens’ best option on the mound. Harman said Carter never complained about the team’s needs forcing her into pitching and is one of the team’s most respected leaders.
Shortstop Kristen Wilhoit has also stood out because of her defensive range. Harman said she can get to balls that other players can’t, and that has been a key to the team defense, especially up the middle.
Catcher Emilee Enos has been steady and works hard as the Ravens’ backstop. Harman said she’s always looking to pick up her teammates and is willing to help the team by doing anything it needs.
But with all of the bright spots to Rocky River’s season, there is one thing still glaringly missing.
“As long as we are getting better as a team and working hard I am happy and satisfied as a coach,” Harman said. “But we haven’t been able to get our first win in (the Southwestern 4A) conference yet, and I really want that, especially for the seniors. Once we get that first (conference) win, I think numbers two, three and four will come a lot quicker.”
Lions tennis adjusts to coaching change
The Covenant Day boys tennis team began the season 3-0 under former coach Marc Taylor and had highly anticipated showdowns with perennial powers Charlotte Country Day and Concord Cannon scheduled in the coming days.
Then, according to school officials, Taylor resigned. Covenant Day hired George Wolbers who has more than 30 years of coaching experience.
The Lions lost the first two matches under Wolbers but have since reeled off four consecutive wins and are currently 7-2 overall. Wolbers has the Lions gearing up for a deep run in the upcoming Metrolina Athletic Conference tournament and the state playoffs.
“I am fortunate to have been given an opportunity to guide these great young men,” Wolbers said. “The difference comes down to maturity and talent. We’re a young team, and I expect as (the players) mature, talent will be a predictable by-product.”
The Lions have just one senior, Brent McKnight, but have a host of players enjoying great individual years. Eighth-grader Jacob Wall has played mainly from the Nos. 4 and 6 positions and is 6-0 on the year. Wall rotates among the top six seeds with eighth-grader Caleb Keaton and freshman Pierce Ormond, who’s a combined 10-1 in singles and doubles.
“This group as a whole has some wonderful potential,” Wolbers said. “(and) an above-average amount of playing experience and depth, making it difficult to maintain an established lineup. It’s incredibly exciting watching their growth just from week to week. They are a brotherhood, and that is a key ingredient to their future.”
Wolbers said junior Will Roberson provides great day-to-day effort. Fellow juniors Wes Adams and Matt Fisher have had solid seasons, as have freshman Davis Riggins and sophomore Hunter Harbin.
The Lions have three remaining regular-season matches, including Friday, April 20, against Charlotte Latin, before starting the Metrolina Athletic Conference tournament on May 7.
Ravens track and field eyes postseason
Last year, the Rocky River boys and girls track and field teams finished last in the Southwestern 4A conference, but those performances are now a distant memory.
This season, the boys are much improved and finished fifth among more than 30 teams at the Marvin Ridge Invitational on March 17. The girls placed 13th, and both teams have been on an ascent.
But coach Dexter Feaster said he’s more concerned with focusing on day-to-day improvement than he is about top finishes at specific meets.
“I use the regular season meets to prepare for the conference, regionals and state competitions,” Feaster said. “I try guys in different (races) to see how they respond, races that could, or should, help with their main events. (This) allows them to compete and, based on performance, lets them decide who the better athletes are.”
The Ravens have had some strong performances, highlighted by the boys finishing first in the 4×400-meter relay at the prestigious Queen City Relays on March 24. With such strong performances, Feaster said he is hopeful his teams will finish in the top half of the Southwestern 4A conference this year.
“Areas that I would like to see us improve in are depth and quality for our sprinters, (better) field events and distance races (such as the) 1600- and 3200-meter runs,” Feaster said.
But overall he is pleased with the team’s development.
Boys standouts include Johnny Nunn, who has personal bests of 22 feet, 11 inches in the long jump, and 43-5 in the triple jump while excelling in the 300 hurdles (40.2 seconds) and the 4×400 relay.
“Johnny Nunn has grown a lot from last year,” Feaster said. “This year, I could not begin to express how much he has worked and committed himself to our team.”
Other notable boys include Tom Mathis, who has personal bests of 50.4 secons in the 400, 22.8 in the 200 and helped the 4×200 relay to a season’s-best 1 minute, 31.5 seconds. Mathis is also a member of the 4×400 relay team.
Quinn Burkhalter has recorded 50.1 seconds in the 400, 2:05.2 in the 800 and runs the 4×400 and 4×800 relays.
Girls standouts include Isabel Fee, the only Raven to qualify for the state meet last season. Fee’s having another great year with personal bests of 15.6 in the 100-meter hurdles, 46.8 in the 300 hurdles and 1:01.2 in the 400.
Marie Atwater has recorded 1:00.2 in the 400, 26.4 in the 200, and 12.6 in the 100. Kailand Hughes has personal bests of 12.8 in the 100 and 26.8 in the 200.
Grace Academy hosts 5K walk/run
Grace Academy is hosting its annual Grace to Walk and 5K Run For Healthier Families and Communities on Saturday, April 21.
The event will start at 8:30 a.m. at the Grace Center on Pleasant Plains Road and go through Squirrel Lake Park. Proceeds will benefit future growth of the Grace Center, Matthews Free Medical Clinic, Stallings Parks & Recreation and Samaritan’s Feet.
The goal of the event is to heighten awareness about childhood health and health initiatives. Grace Academy has partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, whose goal is to empower kids nationwide to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Guests may attend, with a minimum $25 donation, and pets are also welcome.
After the walk/run, a festival-style celebration will take place, complete with food, entertainment and activities for kids and families.
To participate, or to inquire about corporate sponsorships, visit www.graceacademync.com, or contact Lynne Foreman at email@example.com or 704-234-0292.