Lindsey Pritchard (No. 997) competes in the 2018 Monarch Classic. She finished first, and teammate Makala Lawler (No. 993) finished second.

When Lindsey Pritchard walked across the stage on May 4, 2019, she graduated as the most decorated student-athlete in Methodist University history.

When Lindsey Pritchard walked across the stage on May 4, 2019, she graduated as the most decorated student-athlete in Methodist University history. She was the USA South Athletic Conference’s 2019 Rita Wiggs Woman of the Year, and Methodist University’s Female Senior Athlete of the Year, as well as the recipient of the University’s 2019 Lucius Stacy Weaver Award, given to a student who exemplifies service, academic, and spiritual excellence. Pritchard also was awarded MU’s Distinguished Graduate, an award given by her graduating class.

As the Rita Wiggs Woman of the Year, Pritchard became the conference’s nomination for the NCAA Woman of the Year award. One of 585 nominees from Divisions I, II and III, she advanced into the pared-down list of 192 nominees — only 51 of whom were student-athletes at the Division III level.

In addition to being a four-time Academic All-Conference selection, Pritchard became the first Monarch student-athlete to win the Methodist Scholar-Athlete of the Year award four times. She is also an outstanding athlete —a two-time first team All-USA South Athletic Conference selection in cross country (2017, 2018) and a conference champion (cross country 2017) with several Methodist records to her name.

Imagine if Pritchard’s outstanding time at Methodist never happened. A lot had to take place first, like her gut instinct that attending school more than 700 miles away in North Carolina was the right step after graduating from Strongsville High School in Ohio. Pritchard had no family in Fayetteville, and had never visited Fayetteville.

“I wanted to go to North Carolina, and I like Division III schools. Methodist had everything that I wanted. It had ROTC on campus, track, and my major,” said Pritchard.

It’s also surprising she chose the military as her career. Pritchard joined the ROTC program at Methodist, despite never participating in the JROTC program at her high school. She went on her gut feeling the military might be for her.

“My mom, who has pharmaceutical sales accounts at Veteran Affairs, always told me that I would do really well in any sort of military capacity. So, I decided to look into it because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” said Pritchard.

Pritchard’s mother was right. Pritchard received the Pallas Athene Award from the Women’s Army Corps Veteran Association, awarded annually to the top two outstanding female senior Army ROTC Cadets in the country. Pritchard graduated summa cum laude and was ranked among the top 10 percent of cadets in the nation, and was awarded the Methodist University President’s ROTC Award. The double major in environmental science and Spanish took just as much pride in her academics as she did in her athletics. The fluent Spanish speaker, writer, and reader has studied abroad in both Argentina and Spain.

Pritchard also added to the schools recycling efforts with a campaign that featured “big cardboard boxes” in Garber Hall. Additionally, she was inducted into the Phi Alpha Phi and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies and had already been commissioned and branched as an army engineer before graduation. She plans to eventually attend the SAPPER Leader Course and possibly transition over to the environmental science office of the Army Corps of Engineers.

In 2017, Pritchard became the school’s first women’s cross-country runner to claim an individual championship when she won the USA South Athletic Conference 6K crown with a program-record time of 22:49.58. Prior to that season, she had never run cross country and may not have considered long-distance running if not for an injury that forced her to transition away from sprints in track and field. She tore the ACL in her left knee December of her freshman year playing intramural volleyball. “Luckily, we were playing the physical trainers program,” joked Pritchard.

After a grueling rehab and being unable to run for four months, she returned for the outdoor track & field season. It was during that time assistant track and head cross country coach Jack Brunecz, spotted a potential star.

“It was that first long-type of run we went on together when I realized she had a lot of mental toughness. Her endurance base was definitely above-average, and I felt like she had the possibility of being successful in cross country. Once we got to the meets where we wanted to peak as runners, she elevated to a whole new level. She’s one of those runners who, when they get to those bigger situations, rise to the occasion,” said Brunecz.

Pritchard thought her performance at the championship was a possible fluke until she registered an even better time in the next meet. She posted a new record time of 22:48.70 at the NCAA Regionals, where she placed 34th and earned All-Region honors.

“After Regionals, I realized I definitely have some talent here, which was pretty reassuring,” said Pritchard.

Pritchard often praises her teammate Makayla Lawler. “If Lawler wasn’t on the team, I don’t think I would have gotten the championship, because she pushed me along in training and made me better than I would have been,” Pritchard said.

Pritchard hasn’t taken the time to soak all of her accomplishments, but hasn’t taken anything for granted.

“I really hope that I get into the Methodist University’s Hall of Fame, that would be awesome,” Pritchard admitted when asked if she expects a plaque. “That would make me believe I left a legacy people can look back and talk about. She came and put all the work in, and the success stems from that. Athletes coming in will be able to see that,” said Pritchard.

Five years after graduation, Pritchard will be eligible for the Methodist Athletic Hall of Fame. It’s only a matter of time before Pritchard adds another plaque to her collection. Pritchard’s legacy is already cemented and here to stay for generations to come. Pritchard just wanted to be an example for other athletes: If she can do it, so can they.

“It has truly been a blessing having Lindsey Pritchard be a part of the program. Her work ethic, her attitude, her mental toughness, her physical toughness, every aspect a cross country or track coach could want in a runner, far exceeded expectation. Even when she accomplishes something, she’s still striving for more. Lindsey is the epitome of what any coach looks for in the ideal athlete, and she gets it done in the classroom too,” said Brunecz.

After graduation Pritchard attended Engineer Basic Officer Leadership Course (EBLOC) in Leonard Wood Missouri, a course designed to build platoon leaders. Currently she’s stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado on track to lead a vertical construction platoon. Every year the platoon travels to Africa and Pritchard is looking forward to traveling and seeing new places. Today Pritchard enjoys hiking Colorado’s largest peaks and continues to run and compete in endurance relays – an unquenchable fire from the spark no doubt, kindled while at MU.

Photo: Lindsey Pritchard (No. 997) competes in the 2018 Monarch Classic. She finished first, and teammate Makala Lawler (No. 993) finished second.