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Big plans: Ripley star Tori Starcher talks spring season and beyond

File Photo Ripley’s Tori Starcher was anticipating a huge senior season in track and field before the coronavirus put things on hold. Now, she’s ready for whatever might come next, including a successful college career at Stanford.

RIPLEY — With uncertainty surrounding the spring sports season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ripley senior track star Tori Starcher may not get a final chapter of her high school career.

After spending all offseason recovering from a nagging injury with hopes of helping her Viking teammates win a third straight Class AAA girls state title, Starcher will be disappointed not to finish her senior season before heading off to Stanford University to continue as a student-athlete.

“All of this happened pretty abruptly and I think it was kind of a shock to everybody. I don’t think anybody expected it to escalate this quickly,” Starcher said. “Obviously I’m going to be really upset if I’m not able to finish out my senior year but right now I’ve just been trying to focus on one day at a time. Continuing to put in the work to hopefully carry out through the summer and for college here in the next few months.”

Starting with her freshman year in 2017, Starcher went on a three-year stretch that saw her dominate the 800-meter, 1600-meter, 3200-meter run and 4×400 meter relay. Last spring was Starcher’s most impressive performance at University of Charleston Stadium, as the then-junior left with three state records, including the 800 (2:08.49) and 1600 (4:49.14).

Trailing Wheeling Park by two points heading into the final event of states, Starcher and teammates of Kyanah Baldwin, Cassidy Miller, and Allison Fields came up clutch for the Viking, setting the 4×400 relay state record with a time of 4:01.64, besting the time the team set the year prior, giving Ripley the 82-80 win for their second straight title.

Riding off her dominating showing in Charleston and participating in running camps during the summer, a fully-fit Starcher then switched her sights on trails of cross-country to start her final year at Ripley.

An accomplished cross-country runner as well (winning in the state title 2017), Starcher started her senior season off with a win at the Autumn Classic at St. Marys and finished third at the second meet. Starcher later won her next two meets, a third straight Chick-fil-A Invitational and the hometown Ripley Covered Bridge Invitational.

A stress fracture came right before regionals and quickly derailed Starcher’s season. Able to continue running while dealing with the pain at first, the severity of the injury quickly worsened over a short amount of time and forced Starcher to miss the remainder of her cross country season. She was on crutches for eight weeks.

“During the cross-county season, I just came off like the best track season of my life. I was able to do some camps over the summer. So I was definitely feeling fit throughout the season of cross country that I was able to compete in,” Starcher said. “The injury came on really fast. I mean, it was hurting one day and then it really escalated and got worse very quickly. So I went to the doctor and they’re like ‘you definitely need to take some time off.’ It was frustrating. It was my senior year, my last cross-country season and I was unable to compete in the state meet. You know, it stinks. But I’m trying to look at the bigger picture, keep a positive mindset for all of these things that are upsetting. I think that’s the big debate, just try and keep a positive mindset through the rough times.”

Taking over head coaching duties of the program during Starcher’s sophomore year, coach Krystle Cunningham believes that going through the pain, not only physically but mentally, will help Starcher reach another gear at the next level.

“I’m super proud of her, she is doing awesome and this is going to make her stronger mentally and physically. She’s been through a lot, injured a few times. I know it’s really hard stuff, but sometimes they need it before they go to the next level to be kind of mentally stronger,” Cunningham said. “I think this will help her in the long run that she can realize that she can push through anything that comes her way. I was kind of anxious for the season seeing how wrapped around she was with everybody and how much of a leader she was. We could only practice nine days, but she was there, she was around, leading and everybody looked up to her.”

In addition, Starcher also won the Ray McCoy female athlete of the year twice and was named the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 Gatorade West Virginia girls track and field and cross county athlete. She’s just the seventh athlete to win the award twice in track and field and could have made history by becoming the first three-time winner of the accolade.

She also owns the seventh fastest time in the United States with a 4:38.19 at the Penn Relays, which is also the event’s record.

Originally committed to Notre Dame in October, Starcher decided to go to the west coast and signed with Stanford in November on National Letter of Intent day. Planning to keep busy all year by running cross country, indoor and track and field for the Pac-12 Cardinals, Starcher will be joining a cross country team that had its best finish since 2012 (third) at the NCAA championships and won the conference title and NCAA West Region championships. Along with going to one of the premiere academic and athletic universities, where she felt at home on the tour of the campus, Starcher saw herself spending the next couple of years on the west coast.

“I think the big thing was just I just felt a little bit more at home at Stanford and I felt like it was where I saw myself having the best fit. I fit in with the team best there and just felt like a lot of the people there were similar to me. Felt really welcomed there and not that I didn’t at Notre Dame,” Starcher said. “I just felt those are kind of like my people and loved everything about it. The weather’s beautiful and the campus was super nice and definitely way different from living in Ripley, West Virginia. So that was another thing that drew me towards it. The diversity is there, it is pretty far and I’m excited for it, but I know my family is gonna be missing me a lot. So right now we’re just trying to spend a good amount of time together.”

Starcher plans to major in biology and hopes to go to medical or graduate school afterwards.

“I definitely just want to thank my coaches, family, and friends for just giving me support, giving me the opportunities that I have. I’m just excited for the next four years, I don’t know what’s going to happen within the next few months, but I’m just hoping everybody will stay healthy and everything will work itself out within the next couple of months,” Starcher said.

Contact Tyler Bennett at tbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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