Chasing the finish line

Vince Ragland II (center) provides instruction to Camden Walton (left) during the Second Gear Speed Development Clinic at Vance County High School on Saturday morning. Ragland, a former high school and college track sprinter and hurdler, created the camp to instruct local athletes on the techniques that can help them run more efficiently and quickly.

HENDERSON — After a one-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Northern Vance High School alumnus Vince Ragland II brought his Second Gear Speed Development Clinic back to Vance County High School this past weekend.

Ragland could not have asked for a better day weather-wise on Saturday to help the next generation of athletes in the region perfect their sprinting mechanics. He is eager to turn the Speed Development Clinic into a regular local event going forward.

“We had a great turnout and perfect weather,” Ragland said. “Frankly, I was just happy to be back out [at Vance County]. It was a shame that we had to miss last year, but it was great to have the kids with us for the camp.”

During his time at Northern Vance, Ragland developed his passion as a track and field athlete, and was able to carry over his talent in the sport to the collegiate level with UNC Wilmington and East Carolina after graduating in 2013.

Ragland is currently the head coach for the men’s track and field program at Southern Durham High School, but he continues to support his hometown and hopes more local athletes achieve opportunities to play at their dream college.

He started the Speed Development Clinic back in 2019 to explicitly focus on fine-tuning the running abilities of local athletes, as efficient speed is equally important to physical and mental discipline in any sport.

“We often put a lot of pressure on athletes to be great at what they do,” Ragland said. “At the same time, we don’t work with them enough on different aspects of their game. Speed is neglected in a lot of areas, so teaching these kids how to run properly can help them more in their sports.”

Acceleration and starting mechanics were two key aspects that Ragland and his staff discussed and worked on with student athletes in attendance on Saturday. They also stressed the importance of posture and proper breathing techniques.

Ragland added that speed is crucial in deciding outcomes of any sport, and that knowing how to be quick is imperative for local athletes as they move on from high school and into a much more difficult and demanding college atmosphere.

With two successful years now complete for the Speed Development Clinic, Ragland is ready to expand its influence to different parts of North Carolina so more student athletes can understand the fundamentals behind becoming an effective runner.

“I want to spread the [Speed Development Clinic] out and get it to more counties around the state,” Ragland said. “We really think speed is one of the most important things in any athletic event and we’re hoping to keep teaching the importance of speed development across the state.”