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Midland boys hope to validate ranking

Oct. 26, 2012 @ 01:10 AM

ONA — ­Cabell Midland’s boys cross country team has been No. 1 in Class AAA in the RunWV.com cross country rankings all season and they attempt to confirm that rating Saturday in the West Virginia High School Championships on their home course.

A year ago, the Knights found themselves in a similiar position and watched No. 2 Jefferson get a strong performance from its runners across the board to win with 60 points. The runner-up Knights had 63 points.

“Saturday we have to go out and prove it,” Cabell Midland coach Chris Parsons said. “Last year we had an off day, Jefferson ran well and we got beat.”

Leading Cabell Midland as he has for four years is senior Jacob Burcham. This is the final cross country race in West Virginia for Burcham and four other seniors who will hit the starting line at 1 p.m. He comes in ranked No. 9 nationally by MileSplit.com.

“It’s hard to believe it’s almost over,” Parsons said. “I’ve got mixed feelings. He’s going to continue and I’m anxious to see how he develops in college. The people he’ll train with there will be as good or better.”

Four years ago, Burcham started his high-profile career with wins in the Hurricane Invitational, Chick-Fil-A Invitational and GEICO Classic on the Cabell Midland course. At the state meet, though, Burcham placed sixth in 17:09.75, but the Knights did win the title. That’s been his only loss in Mountain State races.

“From the first year to now, he’s improved so dramatically,” Parsons said. “His teammates have been a help and he’s pushed them to get better. But over the four years, he’s done a lot by himself. The four years with him have been a privilege.”

At nearly every meet, Burcham breaks away from the pack and runs by himself virtually the entire race. One goal this season has been to break 15 minutes for the 5K (5,000 meters). He came close in the Trinity-Valkyrie Invitational on Sept. 14 in Louisville. He took second overall in 15:04.42. He set the course record for the state meet as a sophomore, winning in 15:13.

“It’s possible, but he’ll have to do it on his own,” Parsons said. “It’s a tall task. When you ask him to do something, watch out.”

Cabell Midland is seeking its seventh state title. Joining Burcham in that pursuit are seniors Avery Campbell, Brian Lawhon, Mason Dino and Jeremy Waugh along with freshmen Andrew Short and Nick Salmons.

“The difference this year is so far we’ve produced in every meet,” said Parsons, who’s had 15 runners battling for starting spots all season. “Depth wise, we’ve never had this.

There’s not a big split (in times). If someone goes down, we plug someone else in.”
Burcham and the Knights want to make up for 2011 and they’ve been focused on that goal since the GEICO meet on Sept. 1.

“He wants to lead the team to a state title,” Parsons said. “They really want to go out a winner. Everyone has a part to do.”

Burcham has balanced running with school work and recruiting. Some schools high on his list are Ohio State, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Stanford. Burcham’s college emphasis will be engineering.

“He realizes every top school in the country wants him,” Parsons said. “He knew it would be a challenge. He’s handled things well.”

The state meet won’t be the last for Burcham or the Knights. They’ll head to the Nike NXN Southeast Regional on Nov. 24 in Cary, N.C. The top five runners and top two teams will advance to the national meet scheduled Dec. 1 in Portland, Ore. In 2010, Burcham finished 16th in that race to earn All-American honors.

“This year we’re still on the upswing. We haven’t raced that much,” Parsons said.
In Class AA-A, newcome Fairmont Senior (down from Class AAA) is No. 1 in the state ahead of No. 2 Philip Barbour.

Class AA-A races will be in the morning and Class AAA races in the afternoon. There will be an awards ceremony in the Cabell Midland gym after each session.