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David Walsh: Burcham, Drazba rewrite cross country record book

Oct. 29, 2012 @ 12:36 AM

Cabell Midland coach Chris Parsons had a good view Saturday of two of the most historic cross country runs in West Virginia high school history.

Seniors Jacob Burcham of Cabell Midland and Maggie Drazba of St. Marys turned in record-setting performances in winning the 5K races in their respective classes in the West Virginia High School Cross Country Championships at Cabell Midland on a cold, overcast and rainy day.

Burcham's goal in his final season was to go under 15 minutes and he did, winning in a course-record 14:58.04 to make it three straight Class AAA titles. Drazba zipped around the course in 17:17.89 for a personal best, course record for girls and third state win in four tries in Class AA-A.

"What West Virginia witnessed today was the two fastest female and male athletes to ever perform (in the state)," said Parsons, who is cross country coach for the Knights and state meet director as well. "What they did on this course today, no one in history can match on West Virginia soil. The people that didn't get to see this missed quite a show and the people that did get to see it got more than their money's worth."

Parsons knew it would be difficult for Burcham to break 15 minutes because he runs virtually every race by himself. But when Burcham's challenged, he answers.

"We knew he was going to have to do it by himself, and as talented as he is, that was going to be a tough task," Parsons said. "Then we thought why not? Jacob knows where the marks are. He was strong the whole way. That was his best cross country performance ever."

All the Knights performed that way as they had five runners in the top 13 and won with 37 points. For the seniors, this was their third win in four years (eighth in school history) and made up for the loss to Jefferson a year ago. Avery Campbell was third, Mason Dino eighth, Andrew Short 12th and Brian Lawhon 13th. Jeremy Waugh was 18th and Nick Salmons 24th. Short and Salmons are freshmen, the rest seniors.

"I can't tell you how I'm feeling right now," Parsons said. "I knew we had enough not to let it slip by. It was our best performance. The top seven sub 17 minutes, three in the top 10. Total opposite from last year. Call it a lesson learned. We're on the upswing."

And the Knights aren't done. They'll compete in the Nike NXN Southeast Regional on Nov. 24 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. The top two teams and top five runners there advance to the ninth annual Nike Cross Nationals on Dec. 1 in Portland, Ore.

"We've got much more to work for," Lawhon said after the race.

This was the first meet without starter Doc Hale. Hale, who started meets on the Tri-State, regional and national levels, passed away in June in Knoxville, Tenn. Hale, 80, was there to work the AAU Area 5 national qualifier at the University of Tennessee.

Michele Hale, Doc's daughter, came in from Jefferson to work the meet as a line clerk. She checked uniforms of the runners to make sure they met all required standards. On Sept. 1, she served as honorary starter at the GEICO Classic at Cabell Midland. She coaches sprinters at Jefferson now and the Cougars have won two straight Class AAA state track titles.

At the morning and afternoon meeting of coaches, there was a moment of silence to honor Hale.

WRESTLING HONOR: Bane McCracken, former wrestling coach at Milton High School and first state champ in that school's history, was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame/West Virginia Chapter on Sunday. McCracken won his state title in 1962 at 177 pounds. He continued his career at Marshall and took over as Milton coach in 1974. When the school closed in 1995, he left coaching to become physical education department chair at Cabell Midland High School.

McCracken received several teaching honors before he left Cabell County Schools in 2000 to become coordinator of physical education, health education, athletic training and liaison to the WVSSAC for the West Virginia Department of Education until he retired in 2006. He's written a book, had articles published in magazines and been a featured speaker at conferences in 45 states as well as Mexico, Germany and Japan. He currently is a consultant for the National Center for Disease Control. Bane and his wife Joyce, a retired teacher, live in Ona. They have two children and four grandchildren.

Also inducted were Donnie Bauer, Mike Ellis, Jim LeMaster, Thomas Lewis and James Snyder. Dave Wadsworth got the Outstanding West Virginian honor.

CLIFFORD OUT: Portsmouth High School head football coach Curt Clifford announced his retirement Saturday in a Portsmouth Daily Times newspaper report. Clifford's retirement came on the heels of a 63-0 loss Friday night at Chillicothe that ended a 1-9 seasons for the Trojans. He began coaching at Portsmouth as an assistant in 1977 and was hired as head coach in 1989. He guided the Trojans to seven playoff appearances.

David Walsh is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or dwalsh@herald-dispatch.com.

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