When first-year Varsity Girls Basketball Coach Zach Barringer first had the idea to invite former players back to Randolph, he had no idea just how special the experience would become to so many people. It turned out to be one of the best reunions he’s ever organized during his coaching tenure.
“Randolph is such a special place,” shared Barringer. “This Alumni Night was different from any I had ever done before. These ladies were so proud to be from Randolph. They take so much pride in being a former Lady Raider. Hearing their stories and the journey they went through was so inspiring.”
Whether the journey was a short drive or a plane ride from the west coast, the excitement to reunite with the people and memories who were such a special part of their Randolph student experience was palpable from the moment the women stepped foot on the Garth Campus. The smiles, hugs, and catch-up conversations started on Friday night prior to the Raiders game vs. Tanner and continued through the weekend, ending with a special team dinner at former Coach Leila Nabors’ home.
From 1978-1986, the Lady Raiders basketball teams achieved a lot of success on the hardwood. The Raiders were led by head coach, Leila Nabors. During this stretch, Randolph eclipsed a record of 114-58. In the 1978-79 season, Coach Nabors helped lead her Lady Raiders to the Final 4 of the State Tournament. Their time at the State Tournament did not stop there. Randolph also made it to the State Tournament the following two seasons, leaving their mark at the Elite 8. Although they didn’t make it back to the State Tournament during Coach Nabors’ tenure, the Lady Raiders still were able to find success. From 1983-86, they accomplished a three-peat of Area Championships, as well as making appearances in the Regional Championship each of those seasons.
One of the former Lady Raiders, Sarah Chappell ‘79, recalls her time fondly and was excited to reconnect with her former coach and teammates.
“It’s been 44 years, but I still count my experience as one of the best of my life,” shared Chappell. “Our team was made up of 7th – 12th graders, but we were one team. We all wanted to push each other and work together to be better. I still remember how we would slap hands as we passed each other while running suicides.”
Chappell, filled with enthusiasm about the reunion and the fact that Coach Barringer was using a theme that they had once emphasized – pride – surprised the Varsity Girls Basketball Team with custom t-shirts, which were a recreation of their team shirt from decades ago.
“It is important for our girls to be proud and take pride in where they are from,” said Barringer. “We talk a lot about how the jerseys they wear represent more than themselves. They are representing their families, school, and community. Being able to have the alumni there to talk about how they were honored to be associated with our girls just affirmed that.”
Another affirmation came during Coach Nabors’ pre-game speech to the team, highlighting her enduring ability to inspire and motivate.
Sitting together, this time in the stands, the former Lady Raiders cheered on a new generation of Randolph student athletes. It was a showing of support that one Randolph parent believes was not only meaningful in the moment, but also a gesture that will leave a lasting impact on the girls well into the future.
“I was blown away and very thankful that my daughter had the privilege of being in the room with all of these women of influence,” said Jennifer Swoboda, a Randolph parent. “Every word that Leila said was so powerful. Lily Kate wore her t-shirt all weekend and truly enjoyed the camaraderie. It's a special club to be a part of and the bond transcends the player and alum status. The current players will recognize that more and more as they find themselves in their shoes one day.”
Coach Barringer says that he’s thrilled that the Lady Raiders reunion created many opportunities for connection and purpose.
“We talk about always having a goal and a vision of accomplishing things that you have never done before,” explained Barringer. “My hope is that by having my girls interact with these former Lady Raiders, they now will believe they can achieve something special. I hope they strive to be able to attain the same things the former teams did.”