April Shining Stars in Stripes Winners: Lauren Prakke from the Triangle Soccer Association and Leo Lockhart from the Eastern Basketball Association and the East Carolina Baseball Association.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association would like to recognize Lauren Prakke from the Triangle Soccer Association and Leo Lockhart from the Eastern Basketball Association and the East Carolina Baseball Association.
Lauren Prakke, a teacher at Hilburn Academy in Raleigh, had always been passionate about soccer. From a young age, she played the sport with great enthusiasm and skill. Little did she know that her love for the game would lead her down a path that would shape her life in unexpected ways.
It was during her youth soccer days that Lauren first encountered the world of officiating. One of her teammate's fathers happened to be a soccer official, and he saw something special in Lauren. Recognizing her strong mentality and natural leadership abilities, he approached her with an intriguing proposition. He believed she had what it took to become a successful soccer official.
At the age of 14 and a half, Lauren embarked on her journey as a soccer referee. She began officiating youth club games in the Raleigh area, where her love for the sport and her desire to contribute to its positive development grew stronger. As she pursued her education at NC State, another official recognized her talent and invited her to officiate high school games. This marked the start of her officiating career with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA).
For the past five years, Lauren has dedicated herself to officiating soccer games, focusing solely on this beloved sport. She has become an integral part of the NCHSAA, making a significant impact on the association and its members.
One of Lauren's most notable accomplishments occurred in 2021 when she was selected to be part of the first all-female on-field officiating crew in the NCHSAA state finals. It was a historic moment that showcased the progress of gender equality in the world of sports officiating. As an assistant referee, Lauren contributed her skills and expertise to ensure fair play and uphold the integrity of the game. The experience left an indelible mark on her memory, reminding her of the importance of breaking barriers and inspiring others to pursue their dreams.
Lauren's contributions extend beyond the field. As a mentor and advocate, she actively encourages and supports other females who aspire to join the officiating profession. She understands the power of representation and the need for diversity in sports officiating. By nurturing and guiding future officials, she helps create a more inclusive and vibrant community within the NCHSAA.
When asked about her favorite part of officiating, Lauren's passion shines through. She revels in the opportunity to promote youth sports in a positive light. Through her role as a referee, she becomes an advocate for fair play, teamwork, and sportsmanship. Moreover, the camaraderie she shares with her fellow officials adds an extra layer of fulfillment to her experience.
Officiating has given her not only a platform to contribute to the game she loves but also lifelong friendships that extend beyond the field.
Of course, officiating soccer comes with its own set of challenges. Maintaining control of the game amidst the intensity and emotions on the field can be demanding. However, Lauren embraces these challenges head-on, recognizing their significance in her growth as an official. She understands the importance of remaining calm and confident in her decisions, never allowing the control of the game to slip away from her and into the hands of players, coaches, or spectators.
To new officials, Lauren offers sage advice. She emphasizes the importance of remaining composed and confident in the face of challenges. Trusting in one's abilities and staying focused on the game at hand are vital qualities for success. Furthermore, she reminds newcomers to have fun and enjoy the experience. When student athletes are out on the field, relishing the moments they share with their teammates, officials can join in that spirit of enjoyment, fostering a positive environment for everyone involved.
As for the future, Lauren envisions herself continuing to promote youth sports through her officiating career. She eagerly looks forward to the opportunities ahead!!
In the small town of Kinston, North Carolina, Leo Lockhart has carved out a name for himself as both a beloved athlete and a revered official. His journey from hometown hero to an acclaimed figure in officiating is a testament to his dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment to the sports he loves.
Leo's achievements and contributions have garnered attention and recognition, with a recent feature on The Bryan Hanks Show, where his career was celebrated by sports commentator Shane J Aube. The segment shed light on Leo's rise to fame in his hometown and his impressive accomplishments both as an athlete and an official.
Leo's illustrious officiating career spans two decades, with the East Carolina Baseball Umpires Association being his home association. It all began when he started working with youth sports at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in Kinston. Guided by mentors such as Anthony Loftin, Tommy Mattocks, Jerry Johnson, and the late Jim Burch, Leo found his calling in officiating and began his journey in high school and college sports.
Throughout his officiating tenure, Leo has accumulated a remarkable list of accomplishments. In the realm of basketball, he has officiated in numerous sectional and regional finals, culminating in state championships in 2002, 2012, 2016, and 2021. His keen understanding of the game and his ability to maintain control on the court have made him a trusted figure in basketball officiating.
In the realm of NCHSAA baseball, Leo's expertise has been showcased in multiple sectional and regional finals, with state championship victories in 2006, 2016, and 2021. His contributions to the sport have earned him the prestigious Dick Knox Distinguished Service Award in 2022, solidifying his status as an outstanding official in the baseball community.
Leo's talents extend to the world of volleyball as well. He has officiated in numerous sectional and regional finals, with a string of state championships in 2013, 2016, and 2021.
Notably, he achieved an incredible feat in 2016 and 2021, officiating a three-peat state championship event in three sports (Baseball, Basketball and Volleyball) during the same year. This exceptional accomplishment exemplifies Leo's dedication and versatility as an official.
In addition to his high school officiating, Leo has also made a significant impact in collegiate basketball and baseball. He has officiated in regional finals championships in basketball, making his mark in the JUCO Region X and Division II tournaments. Leo's skills were further recognized when he officiated in the Men's NJCAA National Championship in 2014.
Leo's work in college baseball includes multiple appearances in the NCAA II CIAA Baseball Tournament Finals and NJCAA Region X Championship. His dedication to the sport has taken him to various Division II regional tournaments, where he officiated with professionalism and expertise.
Beyond his numerous achievements, Leo's impact on the East Carolina Baseball Umpires Association goes far beyond the game itself. He is a role model and a leader, consistently embodying the highest work ethics, displaying a calm demeanor, and effectively managing games. Leo's quiet, compassionate nature resonates with those around him, and his unassuming approach to officiating is truly commendable.
When reflecting on his favorite memories, Leo fondly recalls the camaraderie shared with fellow officials during post-game dinners. These moments not only signify the bond among officiating colleagues but also highlight the importance of building relationships within the officiating community.
Leo's passion for officiating stems from his desire to give back to the sports that have enriched his life. He finds fulfillment in being part of the game and providing a service to athletes, coaches, and fans. Known for his fair and consistent approach, Leo ensures that every game he officiates is played with integrity and sportsmanship.
However, Leo acknowledges that officiating comes with its challenges. The rise of passionate fans has added a new level of complexity to the job. He emphasizes that fans often fail to grasp the amount of training, clinics, and video analysis that officials undergo to improve their craft. Leo understands that perfection is unattainable, but he constantly strives to deliver the best performance possible on the field or court. Building trust with fans and educating them about the intricacies of officiating are crucial aspects of his role.
For aspiring officials, Leo offers invaluable advice. He emphasizes the importance of finding a seasoned official to act as a mentor, guiding newcomers on the right path to becoming skilled officials. Taking shortcuts is discouraged, as he encourages new officials to learn the rules thoroughly and focus on the fundamentals. Leo also urges patience, cautioning against the desire to rush up the officiating ladder. Becoming a truly exceptional official requires time, dedication, and continuous growth.
Looking to the future, Leo remains grateful for the blessings he has received throughout his officiating career. He cherishes every year he has spent officiating and the opportunities it has brought him. While the future remains uncertain, Leo is eager to continue promoting and contributing to youth sports. His goal is to continue working with North Carolina high schools and colleges, leaving a lasting impact on the sports he loves.
Leo Lockhart's journey from a beloved athlete in Kinston to an acclaimed official is a testament to his unwavering commitment, integrity, and passion. His list of accomplishments in basketball, baseball, and volleyball demonstrates his versatility and expertise in officiating. Beyond his remarkable achievements, Leo's impact extends to the officiating community, where he serves as a role model and leader.
As Leo Lockhart continues to officiate, his dedication to the game and his ability to provide fair and consistent officiating will undoubtedly leave a legacy. Whether it's on the basketball court, baseball diamond, or volleyball court, Leo Lockhart's contributions to officiating are a true testament to his love for the sports and his commitment to ensuring a positive and honorable experience for all involved.