Watch full race video above of AAA girls race from 2019 St. Mary's Medical Center XC Festival
While Ripley senior Tori Starcher has gained deservedly so all of the national and local attention that she has received over her incredible 3 years of high school highlighted in a 4:38 Penn Relays record breaking mile performance last April, Morgantown sophomore Lea Hatcher reminded us all that there is plenty of other great talented runners from the state of West Virginia.
Post-race interview with Hatcher following her meet record victory at St. Mary's Medical Center XC Festival
Under the radar with Starcher's success last spring, Hatcher finished her outdoor season running a sensational 800 meter time for a ninth grader at 2:08.48 at the Music City Distance Carnival. She was a state runner-up in Class AAA behind Starcher in the outdoor state 1600 (4:54) and 800 (2:12) meter races.
With a strong summer of training under her belt, it appears that Hatcher has made the sophomore year leap already based off upset victory over Starcher on Saturday night at the St. Mary's Medical Center XC Festival hosted on the West Virginia state meet course found at Cabell Midland High School.
In the race, Starcher was never able to shake or drop Hatcher as one might have expected heading into the meet as actually another runner from Morgantown in senior Athena Young joined the two as they battled for top 3 positions thru the first two miles.
When they reappeared for the finish on the track at Cabell Midland, both Morgantown runners Hatcher and Young had dropped Starcher to third place as Hatcher sped her way to finish in a new meet record time of 18:12 breaking Starcher's prior record from her 2017 meet win in 18:16.
The Morgantown girls decisively won the team title in the AAA division with Hatcher and Young (18:22) going 1-2 ahead of Starcher (3rd, 18:47), while their freshmen teammate Irene Riggs also made quite an impression as a newcomer finishing 4th with a time of 19 minutes flat.
There was bit of a time gap between Morgantown's third runner to their final scorers at the #4 and #5 spots with Lauren Hancox (13th, 21:32) and Amelia Haddox (15th, 21:46), but there was not enough runners from other teams to displace their team scoring significantly as they tallied 35 points to finish well ahead of runner-up squad Hurricane at 76 points.
The Morgantown girls could be a team that could make some noise out of the state this fall and at season's end in the NXN Southeast Regional. Their season race schedule includes going up to Pennsylvania next weekend for the Red White & Blue Classic as well as making the trip up to New York in October for the Manhattan Invitational.
As for the Hatcher and Starcher rivalry, expect for Starcher to certainly rebound after an off race (she ran 17:59 last week at Autumn Classic) and challenge for state title certainly when she races again at Cabell Midland in November. Hatcher has certainly shown though that when Starcher does graduate in the spring, the state of West Virginia will not have to wait at all for their next great distance runner.