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David Walsh: Runner's impressive feat is due to final kick

Mar. 31, 2013 @ 11:19 PM

Buffalo's Dylan Rich joined select company Thursday night. He became one of the few runners to ever finish ahead of Cabell Midland's Jacob Burcham in a high school race in West Virginia.

Rich ripped off two laps in a stadium-record time 1:55.99 to win the 800 in the Carlos Akers/Doc Hale Memorial Invitational in chilly conditions at Cabell Midland's Chris Parsons track. Burcham, reigning West Virginia Class AAA champion and record holder in the 800, 1600 and 3200, came in second in 1:56.87.

Burcham's last loss in the Mountain State came during his freshman year at the West Virginia High School Championships at Laidley Field in Charleston. He finished fourth in the 800 behind Andy Bailey of St. Albans, Khiry Timbers of Martinsburg and Brandon Doughty of Jefferson. He was runner-up to Doughty in the 1600 and runner-up to Dayton McVicker of Fairmont Senior in the 3200.

Ironically, Burcham will be reunited with Doughty in the fall. He's signed to run cross country and track at the University of Oklahoma. Doughty already is with the Sooners along with Eric Graf, another Jefferson product.

Rich's run Thursday certainly makes him the favorite to repeat as 800 and 1600 champ in Class A at the state meet in May. He ran 2:00.23 in the 800 and a meet record 4:23.18 in the 1600 a year ago.

It should be noted that Burcham already had won the 3200 (stadium record 9:27.89) and 1600 before the 800 on Thursday. Dylan's only action had been a leg on Buffalo's victorious 4x800 relay team. However, Knights coach Chris Parsons is making no excuses.

"He's a class runner," Parsons said of Rich. "He was fresh. He caught Jake off guard. He outran him, outkicked him. It was a big deal for the kid and the crowd. I told Jacob move on, you've got one more race (leg in the 4x400 relay)."

Despite having all the state high school distance records, Burcham said there are still other goals. They include having the all-time bests in the 800 and 3200 in West Virginia and breaking 4:00 in the mile. Jeff Adkins of Woodrow Wilson has the 3200 record with 8:49.34. He did it in 1979 at the Bellaire (Ohio) Relays. Burcham gets a shot at that Saturday in the Arcadia (Calif.) Invitational. It's one of the most competitive meets of the season despite coming early on the schedule. A year ago, 16 runners came in under 9:00 in the 3200 (invitational). The winning time was 8:47.75.

"It's the premier 3200 of the season," Parsons said. "He'll have people to follow." The race is scheduled for 11:45 p.m. (our time).

Burcham's first shot at going under 4:00 in the mile will come April 26-27 in the Eastern Relays in Louisville. Burcham's best mile time is 4:02.73 in the Grand Prix Dream Mile on June 9 in New York. As for the all-time best 800 in the Mountain State, Wilson Smith of Huntington ran 1:49.66 in the Golden West Invitational in California in 1968.

There were many other Akers/Hale meet highlights:

Point Pleasant's Marquez Griffin swept the sprints, winning the 100 in 11.41 and 200 in 23.47. He ran anchor on the winning 4x100 relay team.

Fairview's Paige McKnight won the 100 hurdles (15.97) and 300 hurdles (48.79).

Huntington High's boys won the shuttle hurdle relay (1:03.52). Payton Johnson, Brandon Morrison, Ryan McGuffin and Ryan Gatrell make up the team.

In the 110 hurdles for boys, Cabell Midland's Nate Moore won (15.38) and teammate Niles Dailey was second. In the 300 hurdles, Dailey won (41.51) and Moore was second.

Cabell Midland's Siera Grose cleared 4-8 to win the high jump.

Huntington High's Safiyyah Mitchell won the long jump (15-0.50).

This was the first year the meet has had a dual name. Richard "Doc" Hale served as a starter at meets locally, statewide and nationally until he passed away in June 2012 in Knoxville, Tenn. He was 80. Akers is a former teacher and coach in Cabell County and was one of the top track starters in this part of the country as was Hale. To honor Hale, starter Steve Caldwell used Hale's pistol to start the distance races.

FOOTBALL CAMP: Preferred Fitness Center of Ironton will offer a football combine technique and drills camp for players planning to attend a football combine on April 13 at the fitness center located at 711 South Third Street. Schedule is 9 a.m. to noon. Players will receive instruction on proper techniques for all combine drills such as 40-yard sprint, 5-10-5 shuttle, vertical jump and L-drills. Cost is $20. Call (740) 534-1156 for more details or to register.

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

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