SYRACUSE — Without any real plans to compete at the next level, Wawasee grad Sara Pritchard got an assist from another former Warriors throwing great.
Already home for the summer, 2018 grad and Marian football recruit Elisha Tipping ran into Pritchard while training in the Wawasee High School weight room. He asked what her collegiate plans were, and to his surprise, they didn’t include track and field. So Tipping got in some coaches’ ears, and when they saw what Pritchard had to offer, they were interested in the Lady Warriors standout. And she reciprocated the sentiment.
Pritchard signed on to throw for the Knights’ track team during a ceremony at WHS on Wednesday.
“I was kind of undecided. I wasn’t going to throw anywhere, then they mentioned that it was a possibility and I could definitely do it, and my coaches made me realize that I could throw at a college level,” Pritchard recalled. “So it just kind of made me think. Marian came to mind, and I went out there and visited, and I just thought it would be a good fit.”
A two-year captain with the Lady Warriors and All-Northern Lakes Conference pick both of those seasons, finding the confidence to compete has been a part of Pritchard’s recipe for success. Her belief in her abilities was flagging somewhat this past April, but after some helpful advice from NLC competitor Goshen’s throwing coach, the Wawasee senior saw a breakthrough in her discus distances. She just kept improving through the later part of the season, leading up to a third-place, 107’01” result at the Warsaw Sectional and a berth to the regional round of the tournament the following week, where she ultimately finished a little outside of a state finals qualification with a fifth-place throw of 112’06”.
“I think I was kind of losing confidence in myself, and I finally got coaches and people to realize that I was able to do it and I just had to believe in myself. Good things started happening, and it just kept on going,” Pritchard explained.
Of course, the lion’s share of Pritchard’s success has been due to her work ethic. A Warrior Way Award-winner and field MVP for Wawasee track, she’s demonstrated equal drive in the classroom, finishing 15th in her class of 230 with a GPA of 11.24, earning her All-NLC Academic and Academic All-State honors.
“In my 15 years of coaching, I’ve only had one, and you won’t be able to replace that. She’s a true leader. If I’m not there, she’s helping the younger kids. She’s probably the hardest-working athlete, boy or girl, I’ve ever coached,” said Wawasee throwing coach Scot McDowell. “She’s a one-of-a-kind.”
WHS head girls track coach Tracy Walesa also had the pleasure of coaching Pritchard — a three-sport athlete who played basketball and soccer for Wawasee — as a center midfielder on the soccer pitch, and she echoed McDowell’s sentiments.
“I won’t be able to replace her in track or soccer. She’s been helping with soccer when I can’t be there. She’s coming to our open tracks just to get herself better for college,” Walesa said.
“She’s very coachable. You tell her to do something, she tries to make sure she can do that. She coaches her teammates, and she practices what she preaches.”
It’s that work ethic that Pritchard hopes has made an impression on the younger athletes she’s competed alongside at Wawasee.
“I just hope that I’ve left that hard work truly does pay off because I’ve spent a lot of hours offseason. It’s kind of paid off this year going to regionals and doing well, so I just hope that that good work ethic rubs off on other people to show that it does pay off,” she explained.
Pritchard is undecided on a major heading into her first year at Marian, an NAIA, Roman Catholic college located in Indianapolis. She says she likes the small size of the university as well as its location, and she’s intrigued by the variety of throwing events she’ll get to explore at the next level, too — collegiate throwing includes the javelin and hammer throw in addition to shot put and discus.
“I’ve seen people do it, but I haven’t seen it in person; I’ve just seen videos. But I’m super excited to try the hammer. Javelin, I’m super excited about, but I’m more excited about hammer, just to see. I’m excited to try it,” she said.