Burcham commits to Oklahoma
HUNTINGTON -- Jacob Burcham, senior and standout distance runner at Cabell Midland High School, will continue his track and cross country career at Oklahoma.
Burcham gave the Big 12 school a verbal commitment Friday. He will be the third West Virginia native on the roster for the Sooners. He joins former Jefferson High distance runners Brandon Doughty and Eric Graff.
"I'm glad to have it out of the way," Burcham said Sunday during a training break.
Burcham made official visits to Ohio State, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Stanford and West Point.
"The best connection with the coaches and the team definitely was Oklahoma," Burcham said. "They have everything you need (athletics and academics). I felt like I fit there best." Off the track, Burcham wants to pursue a career in engineering.
Oklahoma has a rich tradition in track and cross country. In track, the Sooners have won 17 conference titles, produced nearly 400 first-team All-Americans and seen many performers qualify for the Summer Olympics.
"I'm excited," Cabell Midland cross country and boys track coach Chris Parsons said about Burcham's choice. "He'll finally train with people as good or better than he is. At the college level you see huge improvements. In cross country, a lot of seniors to their freshman year, it's a hard time to adjust. I don't see that in Jacob. Oklahoma's probably a better fit. Those guyes (Doughty and Graff) have done well there. Doughty is so much better now."
Burcham chatted with Doughty and Graff on his visit.
"I asked them what made them decide on Oklahoma? They both said the coaches," Burcham said. "They are some of the best I've met."
Martin Smith is Oklahoma's cross country and men's track coach. The Sooners finished eighth in the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championship.
Burcham is the reigning West Virginia Class AAA champion in the 800, 1600 and 3200 along with cross country. In high school, cross country races are 5K. In college, the number goes to 8K (5 miles) or 10K (6.2 miles).
In nearly every race, Burcham often runs alone whether it's cross country or the 1600 in track. That won't be the case in Norman, Okla.
"In college, it's quantity and quality compared to high school," Parsons said. "He races so much better when he runs against people faster than him."
"I'll start all over again as a freshman," Burcham said. "I have to go a little bit faster."
Parsons said the early decision should benefit Burcham in his final season in track.
"It's good to get it out of the way," Parsons said. "He can concentrate on his senior season and breaking four minutes (1600). The key is finding the right race."
Parsons said Burcham has maintained a rigorous training schedule. He sees that training becoming more intense at the next level.
"I've been on the conservative side with mileage," Parsons said. "I know what his future is. I didn't want to take a chance to get him hurt or burn out. He's excited. He's going into a program where there'll be big expectations, but they won't say he'll be the No. 1 runner. They'll develop him."
Burcham will start his final season with the Knights on March 28 in the Carlos Akers & Doc Hale Memorial Invitational at Cabell Midland. The finale will be the State Meet in mid-May at Laidley Field in Charleston.
"It goes by fast. Everybody warns you," Burcham said of high school. "My goal is to win the state again, the team to win and a four-minute mile."