MORGANTOWN — Sometimes, you meet your lifelong friends in college. But if you’re lucky enough, you meet them at a young age and take them off to college with you.
Such is the case for Samantha Hatcher, Amber Dombrowski and Avigail Radabaugh, a trio of Morgantown High seniors who led the Mohigans to four straight Class AAA cross-country runner-up finishes, as well as the 2017 Class AAA track and field championship.
Better yet, they won’t have to worry about adapting to a strange environment. They won’t even have to leave the city limits.
The three runners all committed to stay in Morgantown to attend WVU and run for accomplished Mountaineers coach Sean Cleary in the Big 12 conference.
“I have always loved the school and living here in Morgantown,” Radabaugh said. ” I’m very fortunate to be able to continue doing what I love where I’ve grown up.”
The ladies shall be legacies in both their track families and biological families. MHS cross-country coach Mike Ryan and MHS track coach Steven Blinco both attended WVU, where they competed for the now-defunct men’s track program, and Dombrowski’s and Radabaugh’s parents all attended the school, as did Hatcher’s mother.
“Not only did my coaches graduate from WVU, but so did my parents,” Dombrowski said. “Having the chance to run for WVU is an honor and achievement.”
Ryan expressed hope that the athletes he has played such a pivotal role in developing will reap the same benefits from his alma mater as he did.
“I felt WVU was a positive influence on my life, and I hope they go there and have the same positive experience I had, and it molds them for the better when they move on to a time past running,” Ryan said. “I hope they enjoy it and get those positive, good experiences.”
According to Blinco, the three forged a bond in middle school during cross-country and track that blossomed into quite the special relationship.
“They’ve been able to forge great relationships, and that’s been able to transform into a sisterhood,” he said. “Having all of them there together, I think, is just going to help maximize their potential.”
Hatcher hopes that having her close friends with her in the process of transitioning to collegiate studies and athletics will help the three of them develop easier.
“Amber and Avigail are two of my best friends, and I’m super excited I will have them to train and compete with over the next couple of years,” Hatcher said. “It’s great knowing I’ll have such a strong support system.”
Dombrowski mentions that the three girls have a “special friendship,” which certainly plays a pivotal part in how they drive each other to success.
“We get to continue supporting and pushing each other to do our best, and I’m excited to get to the next level with them and to reach our goals together,” Radabaugh said.
The relationship with WVU is not new to MHS track: Former Mohigans standouts Rebekah Lafata and Andrea Pettit compete with the Mountaineers.
“I think it just really helps being here in Morgantown and here in such close proximity. The athletic department at WVU tries to help us in any way they can, and it helps us tremendously,” Blinco said. “We just look forward to that partnership continuing.
“We hope one day the men’s track program comes back at WVU. We’d love to send our young men there, too.”
Blinco and Ryan expect big results from the trio in the coming years, and believe they are adequately prepared to join such a high-caliber, Division I program. According to Blinco, it’s what he refers to as the “little things” that make the girls stand out: Proper sleep, nutrition, hydration, rest and workout patterns.
“The most important thing for athletes of their caliber is to do the little things when no one is watching, and that’s what these girls do,” he said. “Not every athlete does these things, but these girls take it to heart, and that’s what really sets them apart.”
Ryan believes the progress they made in high school is impeccable, and is eager to see more at the next level from them.
“To see them grow from those freshmen that were naive and nervous to young women that are ready to face a challenge is wonderful,” he said. “They’re all very coachable, and they’ll be missed.”
For now, the mind set is one more state championship for the girls to wrap up their impressive careers, but from there they will move on to facing some of the top competition in the world at the NCAA stage.
According to Hatcher, it will be an exciting but understandably difficult challenge; but certainly not one the group of friends can’t handle.
“I’m very excited to be competing at the highest level in NCAA athletics,” she said. “It will come with challenges but it will be great knowing we will be pushing each other so we can reach our fullest potential.”
The trio will have a signing-day ceremony at 1 p.m. April 11, at MHS.