Heating up for fall sports

Photos by Jan Clatterbuck and Walter Nicklin

Smack! Crunch! Thud-thud! Ah, the sounds of fall sports practices at Rappahannock County High School.

The Lady Panther varsity volleyball players are already smacking the white leather ball in serving and hitting drills. The football players’ helmets are crunching in high-energy drills. And the footsteps of cross country runners are thudding past onlookers as they condition for long-distance running.

The road ahead looks bright right now for all athletes and coaches.

Volleyball head coach Jackie Tederick noted, “We have a lot to look forward to with a great team and a new division. We only lost one senior last year, and there are already a couple of girls on the team with good defensive skills to fill the spot. This team still has its core players. We have a new AD (athletic director), new energy and a new division.”

Seniors Megan Early and Addie Swindler will bring their veteran status to the court. “Every year, up ’til now, we’ve been the young ones,” Early said. “There were a lot of graduates in our district this year, so competition is going to be solid.”

Swindler added, “The cool thing is that we are a team of seniors who’ve been playing volleyball together since sixth grade.”

The junior varsity squad is equally determined to continue building Rapp’s volleyball legacy. A solid core of eighth and ninth graders are putting their all into the first week of practice.

“This year, with four or five seniors on varsity, the JV squad looking good really helps for the future,” Tederick said. “Coach [Jimmy] Swindler’s working hard with them. They will be ready for next year. Our only concern right now is the search for a JP coach. The position is still open. There are a couple of prospects, so we hope to make a decision soon.”

Outside the gymnasium, Rapp football players are giving their all on the grassy field. head coach Terrance Johnson said he is “excited to be here. I see a lot of youth and a lot of potential. Our focus is on fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. Beyond that, we have to instill discipline while having fun. I’m eager to see how they transfer new knowledge and new skills sets onto the playing field.”

Despite the heat, assistant coach Scott Stevens noted, “The boys are working hard, picking up on things pretty quickly. They haven’t lost focus yet. I’m hoping the good attitudes prevail. With only four or five seniors, we are young team led with great vision.”
Assistant coach Rich Hogan added, “We have seventh graders who are out here practicing just in case we could build a middle school team. These types of attitudes are critical.”

A beat-the-heat strategy calls for early morning practices. After skills and drills, the team spends time in the weight room to gain mass and strength. The enthusiasm there is palpable. Billy Hogan, a freshman, shared his outlook: “Young team — young blood. We have a great season ahead!” Sophomore Britt Hipple’s prediction was “Most wins ever!”

Gazing across the highway to the hillside brings into focus a head-working cross-country team out for a run.

Head coach James Sharpe is hoping to recruit more athletes before RCHS kicks off the new school year. “Right now, these few really want to run, but they need to be on a team with other runners.”

His team started the season with readiness intact. “The first day of practice, we ran four and a half miles. Most were already in good shape. These kids are here running for all the right reasons.”

The Rappahannock County High School Marching Band is also tuning up for a new season. Musicians have been practicing outdoors as well. Band director David DeBoer has been putting them through their paces as they learn the music and march in step.

Overseeing the coaches and teams is Athletic Director Jamie Harris. He and his coaches are working on establishing a new tone in the Panther athletic program. The fall sports season started on Aug. 2, and athletes are definitely in full practice mode.

RCHS students will no longer be allowed to walk on to a varsity or junior varsity team on the first day of school, so if an athlete wants to be a part, he or she needs to contact the school immediately. Harris may be reached Monday through Thursday from 7:30 to 5:30 at 540-987-8575, ext. 19. Junior Panther athletes will begin their seasons during the first week of school. Fall sports schedules are available online at www.rappahannockathletics.org.