MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The 2019 girls’ cross-country state champion Lea Hatcher was named the West Virginia Gatorade Girls’ Cross Country Runner of the Year Tuesday, adding to a list of accolades in her short time as a high school distance runner.
This is the first time anyone from Morgantown’s girls’ cross-country program has been selected for the award. Further, the award puts her in the running for the national girls’ award.
Hatcher, a 5-foot-4 sophomore, finished the Class AAA state race in Ona with a time of 17:24.78, helping the Mohigans fill the top 3 spots as senior Athena Young and freshman Irene Riggs took 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Hatcher also finished 3rd at Nike Cross Regionals in Cary, N.C., and 32nd at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore.
“I feel her success during her freshman year was based a lot on her natural talent,” Morgantown coach Mike Ryan said. “This year she improved by over a minute at the state meet and that can be attributed to her competitive spirit, work ethic and determination.”
The award is the second in a week for the Mohigans, as Ryan was named the West Virginia girls’ cross-country coach of the year. The announcement was made on Jan. 21 by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Hatcher also excels off the course. She holds a 4.0 GPA and is active in community service with the United Way and her church, according to the Gatorade press release. Also according to the press release, Hatcher’s award comes with the chance to donate $1,000 to a local or national youth sports organization of her choice, and she can also write an essay with the chance to win $10,000 to donate.
Last year’s winner was Parkersburg High’s Madison Trippett. In the last five seasons, only one other Morgantown resident has received the award: University High’s TaShala Turner in 2016-17. The Gatorade boys’ cross-country runner of the year will be announced in 13 days.