New cross country coach a four-time state champ

Published 9:40 am Thursday, August 11, 2016

If Davie’s new cross country coach can develop kids to be half the runner he was back in the day, Davie will have something.

Rob Raisbeck had an incredible high-school career in cross country and track, and he went on to run both sports at Wake Forest.

Raisbeck, a longtime attorney at Martin & Van Hoy in Mocksville, grew up in Beltsville, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C. He racked up four state championships at High Point High School while competing in the state’s largest classification.

As a junior cross country runner in 1979, Raisbeck and a senior teammate tied for first in the state. “We purposely crossed the finish line together,” Raisbeck said.

As a senior in cross country, Raisbeck won the state championship outright with a time of 15 minutes, 14 seconds.

As if that wasn’t enough, Raisbeck was a two-time state champ in track. As a junior in the spring of 1980, he captured the two-mile in nine minutes, 17 seconds. As a senior, he snatched the mile in 4:15.

He ran cross country and track at Wake Forest from 1981-85 – not to mention taking a full load every semester and still graduating in four years without any summer school. He did not have an offseason, running cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter and outdoor track in the spring. His biggest highlight: ninth in the ACC in the mile in 1985. His personal record in the mile during those four years was 4:08.

“I took a few tenths off when I was in law school because I kept training and kept competing,” he said.

Raisbeck moved to Mocksville in January 1990. He has been here ever since.

“The first time I ever came to Mocksville was the spring of ‘89,” he said. “It was my last year of law school and I ran the Shamrock Run. I essentially quit (running) because I got a real job and didn’t have time to train anymore.”

Although Raisbeck’s Wake career ended many years ago, he has remained connected to Wake track as the public address announcer at home meets.

“The track stadium at Wake was built in 1990, right after I finished law school,” he said. “We had never hosted a track meet before then, because we didn’t have the facility for it. When we built the stadium over there, we started hosting meets. The coach at the time, John Goodridge (Wake’s track coach from 1984-99), who was my coach, asked me if I’d be the announcer when we started having meets. So in the last 26 years, I’ve been the PA announcer for every track meet that Wake Forest has ever held. So that’s been my continued connection with the sport. As a matter of fact, I’ve called the ACC championships a few times when Wake has hosted, which has been pretty cool.”

While in law school, Raisbeck served as a Wake assistant coach in cross country and track. Davie is his first coaching job since then.

“This is a new experience for me, working with high school kids where you have all different talent levels,” he said. “I’ve got kids who have never run before. It’s been a bit of a learning curve. I don’t want to kill these kids. By the same token, if you don’t work hard you’re not going to get any better.”

David Koontz coached Davie cross country for three years, stepping away to pursue a master’s degree in administration. Parents pushed for Raisbeck give the Davie opening some thought.

“They didn’t have a coach, so there were some parents who knew of my background,” he said. “I had a bunch of folks ask me if I would consider getting involved, so I met with coach (Mike) Absher a few months ago and told him if he needed a coach, I would do it. So here we go. I’m excited about where we’re going with all this.”

Raisbeck inherited a program that has been mired in Central Piedmont Conference mediocrity. Last year the boys finished fifth in the seven-team league. The last time they finished better than fifth was a fourth-place showing in 2010, when the War Eagles were led by Alex Fleming (17th in the CPC at 17:36), Jacob Whitaker (18th) and Karch Arey (19th). The lone All-CPC runner from last year, Nick Simmons, graduated. Simmons was a two-time All-CPC performer, last year finishing seventh at 16:47. The Davie boys did not produce an All-CPC runner between 2009-13.

It’s been pretty much the same story for the girls. Last year they finished sixth in the conference and failed to land anyone on the all-conference team. The last time they finished better than fifth was a fourth-place showing in 2011, when the top runners were Anna McBride (CPC champion at 18:16), Blakely Gantt and Katelyn Hutchins. The last Davie female to make all-conference was Gantt, who was 10th in 2012.

Davie has never won a CPC championship in cross country.

Raisbeck was greeted with a solid turnout in the first week of practice, seeing a total of 60 runners and a max of 48 at one practice.

“I’ve got kids that I’m being told are coming out but haven’t made it yet due to vacation,” he said. “We’re going to have a pretty big crowd. I suspect I’ll pick up some more when school starts.

“Next year I want to get into the middle schools more and hopefully meet with the three coaches and those kids. I’m in this to build for the future. I’m excited about where things are going to go in a couple years.”

In the meantime, the effort to lift Davie’s teams to relevance will take some time. Emma Allen and Jill Staley have been standouts so far for the girls.

“It looks like my top seven will all be underclassmen,” he said. “I’m probably going to have three freshmen in the top seven. If these freshmen stay with me, we could be pretty good in a couple years.”

Like the girls, the boys will mostly be led by underclassmen.

“I’ve got about eight guys who have separated themselves,” he said. “Six of them are underclassmen.”

The No. 1 guy is sophomore Clay Summers, who worked his way to the varsity lineup in the late stages of the 2015 season.

“He has the potential to be really good if he sticks with me,” he said. “He’s a good kid and he’s a leader. I’ll be extremely surprised if he doesn’t run No. 1 all year.