Joe Smith, Local Sports, Morgantown, Preston, Sports

Morgantown’s Lea Hatcher sets strong pace in 800 at Charlie Pritt Classic

KINGWOOD — For the Preston High track program, the annual Charlie Pritt Classic offers an opportunity to honor an integral part of the running community at the school. On Thursday night, things were no different.
“Charlie was a coach and volunteer-parent for us who was renowned for taking thousands upon thousands of pictures of not just kids from Preston, but from across the state,” Preston cross-country coach Paul Martin said.
It’s not uncommon for to see a family commit full-fledged to a sport, and for the Pritt family that sport has long been running. It started with Charlie, who was a fixture in the running community at Preston High, but it didn’t stop there. His son and daughter — Craig Pritt and Megan Pritt — both ran in the program, with his son capturing the 2009 Class AAA championship in the 800 meters and setting the school record that still stands.
Megan was also an 800-meter runner for the Knights, and the event grew to become the calling card of the Pritt family. After his passing at age 49 in 2016, the Knights organized the Charlie Pritt Classic, with a special focus on the 800 meters to honor the Pritt family.
“His son and daughter were both 800-meter runners, and this was his race. It’s the one he liked,” Martin said. “When his son finally won the state championship as a senior, he was one proud papa. That’s why we like to highlight that one.”
The feature races at the Classic were packed with some of the best talent in the state — four of the top 10 Class AAA performers this season were entered on the girls’ side, with two of the top 10 Class AAA and Class AA performers running the boys’ race.
“North Central West Virginia is kind of a hotbed for distance running and it always has been. It doesn’t matter which year it is, it’s always going to be competitive,” Martin said. “This year, particularly on the girls’ side, it’s one of the best year’s ever. We have severally nationally ranked girls.
“When you isolate one event like this and get the crowd pumped up, you’ll run some really fast times. We had several kids today here who have already.”
In the girls’ race, Morgantown freshman standout Lea Hatcher paced the competition in her first open 800 of the year and set the tone for the final stretch of her season. She crossed the line four seconds ahead of second place finisher Caroline Kirby of University, and her time of 2:15.11 was good for a new Morgantown school record, and ranks as the second-best mark in Class AAA this season.
“I was really happy that there was nice weather today, because I knew I could have a good race,” she said. “I’ve been hitting 2:15 in the 4×800 relay, and me and my coach were trying to get me to hit that today.
“I’ve been trying to run more consecutive laps and keep my splits the same, and I did that today, which I’m pretty happy about. I’m just glad to be able to come out and break that mark.”
In the boys’ race, Preston junior Trey Smith-Tatham also set a new personal best, crossing the line in 2:01.68 for a second-place finish. The mark stands as the sixth-best in Class AAA this year.
“I think I did all right. I went pretty conservative through the first lap and on the second lap I tried to go after first and got tied up in the last 100, but I think it was a pretty good race,” he said. “My favorite race has always been the 800, so for this whole meet to be centered around that put a lot of enthusiasm into the race itself. It played a lot into my efforts. It gave me a lot of a boost to stride it out and keep going.”