Tana Pritchard, The News Tribune's male high school athlete of the year
Washington State University football coaches were on the recruiting trail, attending high school basketball games to check out prospects, when they crossed paths with Tana Pritchard.
Pritchard, a football and basketball standout at Clover Park High, had already committed to the Cougars and expected to play outside linebacker. After the basketball game, the WSU coaches had a change of plans.
“They saw how athletic I was on the court and said I’d be playing receiver, maybe H-Back,” Pritchard said.
Pritchard, although he has never played receiver, took the switch in stride. He had been a four-year starter at quarterback for the Warriors, leading the South Puget Sound League 2A in total offense as a senior.
So for the past six weeks, he’s been catching passes from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna, a 1991 graduate of Lincoln High School. Pritchard met Kitna in May at the Tacoma-Pierce County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame banquet where Kitna was the keynote speaker. Kitna mentioned that he needed someone to throw to during the lockout and Pritchard, needing to learn the nuances of playing receiver, took him up on the offer.
It’s been a learning if painful experience, but one that shows the dedication that Pritchard has to being his best.
“After the first (session), my chest hurt,” Pritchard said. “One of the passes slipped through my hands, hit me in the chest and knocked the wind out of me.”
Those who know Pritchard, The News Tribune’s 2010-11 male high school athlete of the year, have no doubt that he’ll find a way to succeed.
“If he threw the javelin he’d be a state champion,” said Clover Park boys basketball coach Mel Ninnis. “If he played baseball, he’d have been drafted.”
Ninnis would know. Pritchard was a four-year basketball starter for the Warriors, including three seasons as a team captain. He guided a youthful Clover Park team to the Class 2A boys basketball state championship as a senior and was voted the classification’s player of the year by sports reporters from around the state.
He counts the state title as his biggest athletic accomplishment, but the football league title won last fall – Clover Park’s first in more than two decades – holds a special place.
“Hopefully we put the next group of guys in a place to continue winning,” Pritchard said.
Pritchard will graduate from Clover Park on June 20. The next day, he’ll be attending classes in Pullman for the first day of WSU’s summer semester.
“The car will be loaded up before the ceremony,” said Pritchard, who will take economics and communications classes. “Directly from there, I’ll drive to Pullman and start college the next day.”
Having earned his associate’s degree through the Running Start program, Pritchard will enter WSU as a junior. He plans to study civil engineering and pursue a master’s degree in the field. Pritchard understands it’s a rigorous area of study and, combined with his commitment to the football program, he’ll have to manage his time wisely.
He’s been in such a situation before.
Pritchard held down a part-time job as a barista at Starbucks while going to high school and playing sports. His typical day last fall went like this: work from 4:30 a.m. to 9:50 a.m.; go to class from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; practice football from 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“That gave me about an hour to do my homework,” he said. “Doing all of that helped prepare me for college.”
Pritchard will graduate from Clover Park with a 3.9 GPA and a cumulative 3.3 GPA in his college courses – a figure he says is below his standards. Ninnis marvels that Pritchard was able to sustain enough energy to not just make it through those long days, but excel academically and athletically.
“I think he just goes into a phone booth and changes his clothes,” he said. “That’s how he must do it.”
Doug Pacey: 253-597-8271
HONOREES: 2010-11 High School Senior Athletes of the Year