Pinecrest's Palmer an All-State Player
Humble isn’t usually a word that is associated with athletes, but Pinecrest High School junior Richard Palmer is the exception to that theory.
Palmer’s outstanding play on the Patriot’s Final Four soccer team earned him All-State honors, a mark of distinction for the co-captain.
“It’s nice to win All-State, but I’m just glad I am part of this team,” Palmer said recently. “I’ve played soccer with a lot of these guys for a long time, and this team is very special.”
While deflecting the obvious praise associated with this prestigious high school award might be natural for the somewhat shy young man, his coach shares a different view.
“Richard was awarded this honor by being seen and selected by soccer coaches at every stage of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association,” said Todd Abbey, second-year coach at Pinecrest. “Not only is he highly regarded as one of the best high school players on a conference and regional level, but Richard also gained notice by coaches from the mountains to the coast.”
The son of Rick and Sarah Palmer, of Southern Pines, Richard began organized soccer on a U-6 Sandhills Youth Soccer team, but like plenty of kids, he also played baseball and recreation and church league basketball in elementary school. By middle school, he started focusing on one sport: soccer.
Adam Martinez was Richard’s coach at West Pine Middle School. He saw a fit and motivated seventh-grader who played smart and “read” the game — someone who consistently brought his competitive instincts to the rest of his teammates.
“He was not only a physically gifted player, but an intelligent one as well,” recalled Martinez. “Richard had such amazing ‘field vision,’ which allowed him to anticipate and control the flow of the game. He also had the ability to study a team, find the weakness in their game and exploit it to our advantage.”
Selected to the Pinecrest varsity team as a freshman, Richard has held down the center mid position. This spot in soccer has been compared to the point guard in basketball or the quarterback in football, the playmaker on the field whose job is to play both offense and defense.
As Richard has grown into his position and helped create and direct scoring opportunities for his teammates, it’s easy for him to remember his most memorable moment as a young Patriot.
“We were at home in the third round of the State playoffs against Wilmington Ashley,” he recalled. “I had the ball at mid-field and sent a through ball to Max Brenner, and he chipped it in. It was for the win.”
Yet again, that “pass the credit” demeanor cannot diminish Richard’s contributions to the team, which reached the state high school soccer “Elite Eight” during his freshman season and the “Final Four” distinctions in the last two years.
It’s no coincidence that this young man has been named All-Conference and All-Region both years and was selected by his teammates as the 2010 Most Valuable Player.
Martinez showed no surprise at Palmer’s MVP recognition, because he is the kind of person that other players want to have on their team, because losing is not an option for Richard.
“Richard was not only an exceptional team player, but he is obviously still a respectful and quality individual with a lot of competitive instinct,” said his former coach.
In a community of talented high school athletes, Richard also has added his accomplishment to the list of four previous Pinecrest men’s soccer players who have been accorded All-State merit, but he is the only men’s player to receive mention during his junior season as a Patriot.
The All-State announcement was well-deserved, noted Abbey.
“During the season-end voting process, players have to achieve All-Conference and All-Region to even be considered for All-State,” the Pinecrest coach pointed out. “Then the greater part of that challenge is, after a name is mentioned for All-State, that player goes up against all 10 regions in North Carolina. And that could mean you’re contending with five, up to sometimes 20 other players per region.”
Richard trains by running and working out at home, challenging himself with speed and ball skills and strength training with P90X. Staying in shape and keeping his skills sharp also include playing for his AC Sandhills U-18 team, and he admits he might like to play soccer in college. But there are other things in this young man’s life in addition to his favorite sport.
He is an Eagle Scout candidate, a member of the youth group at Southern Pines First Baptist Church, Young Life, and has been a participant in their mission trips. At Pinecrest, he is a Key Club member, is in the National Honor Society, and is part of PAC, a volunteer student group which gives school tours for new students. His older sister, Kendall, attends UNC-Chapel Hill.
“We are very proud to have Richard as a part of our program,” said coach Abbey, “and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can accomplish in 2011.”
Richard Palmer has the job on the soccer field of helping create chances for his teammates to score. Perhaps excelling at soccer will create limitless opportunities for this outstanding Pinecrest student in the future.
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