MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — An elite performance on one of the biggest stages in amateur track and field elevated Ripley’s Tori Starcher into the national spotlight just over a year ago.
Starcher was well-known in West Virginia running circles as a multiple state championship winner in cross country and track following her sophomore season. A record-breaking run in the mile at the 2019 Penn Relays in Philadelphia reenforced her reputation beyond the mountain state. Competing at the meet for the second time, Starcher finished in a time of 4:38.19, setting a new mark in the prestigious event.
“We were really prepared,” Starcher said. “We had a plan so I wasn’t going to be on my feet all day. It is a really cool atmosphere. To be able to race there in front of a large crowd in the stadium was really exciting. It is definitely a race I won’t forget.”
Starcher didn’t know she had established a new meet record until a post-race interview minutes after the event.
“It really wasn’t on my mind. I just wanted to go out there and go for the win. In my interview after the race, he was telling me all that had happened and that I broke the meet record. And I had no idea who held it or what the record was. It was Mary Cain, who is a super prestigious runner and has accomplished so much.”
A month later, Starcher won three individual events (800m, 1600m and 3200m) and ran anchor leg on the Ripley 4x400m team, leading the Vikings to their second consecutive Class AAA state championship.
Starcher’s senior season was halted by injury during the fall cross country schedule. A stress fracture left her unable to make a run at a second Class AAA individual title and brought her season to an end.
“It was pretty sudden. It hadn’t really been hurting that long. I was sent to the doctor and it was a pretty large stress fracture in my tibia. He said it was all along (the tibia) so if I were to continue to run, it might turn into a snap or a break. That obviously wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
“I spent four weeks at first on crutches and a boot. That turned into eight weeks. That’s when I realized this was probably going to be the end of the season.”
In October, Starcher verbally committed to run at the University of Notre Dame. Five weeks later, she reconsidered and accepted a scholarship offer at Stanford University.
“I wasn’t making the decision myself. I was letting a lot of outside factors determine it for me. It took a little bit of courage. I was almost about to sign the papers and I wanted to go a different route. I had a lot of support from my friends and family after that.”
Starcher says a recruiting trip to California was significant in her decision to join the Cardinal.
“They sent you with the team and you got to go on a ‘day in the life’ with them for a few days. I liked the team culture there and the bonds that they have are super fun. Everyone was so inclusive, kind and nice. It felt like you were already best friends with a lot of them.”
Healthy and ready to compete this spring, Starcher hoped to lead the Vikings’ track and field team to a third consecutive state title. Their season never got started due to the pandemic.
“Our team has really competed well the last four years. It was definitely a big bummer. It happened so suddenly it was almost like you couldn’t process it.”
Starcher joins a Stanford program that finished third in the 2019 NCAA cross country championships and tenth in the 2019 NCAA outdoor track and field championships.
“Hopefully I can contribute points to the team during cross country (as a freshman). And in track season, maybe I can help contribute to the DMR (distance medley relay) or a relay or an open event. I am just really excited to hopefully stay healthy and help out the team however I can.
“I have been able to travel all across the country to race. I have been able to meet so many people and so many friends throughout my four years running in high school. And it has given me an opportunity to go to such a prestigious college. I am really grateful for it.”
(Taylor Kennedy contributed to this report)