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David Walsh: Looking for next name in running

Sep. 02, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

For the past three years, Jacob Burcham ruled cross country in West Virginia. As a sophomore, junior and senior at Cabell Midland, he won the individual Class AAA state title and the Knights won the team championship twice.

Burcham is about to embark on a college career at Oklahoma, so it's time to see who the next big name in the Mountain State in Class AAA boys will be. The GEICO Classic Invitational is a good place to start. It's one of the biggest early-season meets -- more than 1,600 runners in high school and middle school came to Ona on Saturday to run on the Cabell Midland course -- home of the West Virginia High School Championships.

Levi Snedegar of Greenbrier East and Matthew Brafford of George Washington are two names to watch. Snedegar ran at the GEICO and won the Class AAA race in 16:33. Brafford ran last Saturday at the Saturday Night Lights Race of Champions at Centerville (Ohio) High School. Many big names joined Brafford, but the top-ranked runner in West Virginia won in 15:23.

Snedegar said he hoped his win Saturday is a preview of things to come at the State Meet scheduled Nov. 2. He said a few adjustments must be made.

"I ran a 4:53 first mile and had to back off the second," said Snedegar, who is ranked No. 3 in Class AAA. "I had to save for the kick. All the guys were pushing me. I don't want to make the same mistake next time and go out too fast."

Snedegar, a junior, said it was fun competing against Burcham.

"It was a great honor. I just never had the chance to get that close," Snedegar said. "You have to appreciate all he's done and how he made other runners better. I hope he has a great career at Oklahoma."

Two other Class AAA boys to watch are No. 2 Andrew Milliron of Jefferson and No. 4 Andy Paladino of top-ranked University.

Thomas Worthington from Worthington, Ohio won the Class AAA boys and host Cabell Midland came in second. Eric Wooten placed 10th to lead the Knights. Thomas Worthington had its top five runners in the top 15.

"We'll be in a pack," Knights coach Chris Parsons said of his 2013 team. "Flip a coin for who runs No. 1. It'll make for an interesting season."

A name to watch for the future is Josh Minor, an eighth-grade at Milton Middle School. He won in 11:25 and Winfield's Phillip Englund took second in 11:51.

WHAT A START: The new Air Evac Lifeteam 114 helicopter and its crew delivered the game ball Friday night for the Wheelersburg vs. Ironton game at Tanks Memorial Stadium in Ironton. The helicopter landed at midfield, a crew member handed the officials the ball and departed. Air Evac Lifeteam is a partner with St. Mary's Medical Center Ironton Campus. The Ironton base will employ 12 to 15 people and serve communities within a 70-mile radius of Lawrence County. Crews are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

WINNING KICK: At halftime of the Wheelersburg-Ironton game, a lucky fan had a chance to win wings for a year from Buffalo Wild Wings (Ironton). The catch is the fan had to make a 45-yard field goal. The fan who had his ticket drawn got to have a younger person handle the kicking. The left-footed sidewinder came through, touching off a wild celebration from the packed house at Tanks Memorial Stadium. The booming kick cleared the crossbar by some 15 yards. The ticket holder gets wings for a year. Fans at the game just have to show their ticket stub for six wings on their next visit to Buffalo Wild Wings (Ironton or Portsmouth).

CARPENTER DID IT: Chesapeake's Austin Carpenter gets credit for stripping Oak Hill running back Willy Harris of the ball and returning the fumble 22 yards to the Oaks' 2-yard line in the fourth quarter Friday night. Oak Hill stopped the Panthers and held on for a 14-0 victory.

BACK ON THE FIELD: South Point graduate Katelynn Leonard has signed to play softball for the University of Rio Grande in 2014. The 5-3 second baseman/outfielder actually is resuming her career. She was honorable mention All-Ohio Valley Conference as a senior in 2011. Leonard, who plans to major in Early Childhood Education, said she can't wait to get started. "I feel like I can bring support and a positive attitude to the team," Leonard said. "I just want to play and have fun."

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