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Prep track: Bison coach says best yet to come from senior Rich

By Nick Brockman

POCA, W.Va. -- Buffalo runner Dylan Rich excelled as a junior with two individual state track titles, including one state record, and now as a senior, Bison Coach Richie Wyant said Rich's best lies ahead.

Last season, Rich captured the individual Class A state title in the 800-meter run, set a new meet record in the mile (4:23.18), and ran anchor as part of Buffalo's first-place 4x800 relay squad. This year, Rich started the season strong defeating Class AAA 800 reigning champ Jacob Burcham, of Cabell Midland, and continued his momentum at Poca's Dick Darby Invitational on Tuesday evening.

At Poca, Rich swept his regular schedule of events: the 800, 1600, 3200 and 4x800.

"I tell him all the time he doesn't know what he's capable of yet," Wyant said of Rich, "because he's a super athlete all around."

Rich proved his potential in his first meet of the season when he faced Burcham in a matchup of two of the state's best distance runners. The two met at the Carlos Akers/Doc Hale Memorial Invitational at Cabell Midland on March 29.

Rich opted to race in the 800 and 4x800 in his first meet of the season, instead of Rich's regular full-meet schedule of events.

Rich joined the track team late this season, because of his participation with the Buffalo basketball team's run to the State Tournament.

"That really helped him out, because he was super fresh," Wyant said. "The whole idea of him running against Burcham was he wanted to get a good, early time. I think he surprised himself, how well he did."

Rich finished the 800 in 1:55.9, Wyant said, defeating Burcham on his home track.

"It felt pretty good," Rich said. "That's one race that I've been looking forward to since last year, since the Cabell Midland race last year when I got third to him - but it felt pretty good. That was a big goal that I wanted to do this year."

It was an exciting race to witness, Wyant said, though he laughed and added it nearly felt wrong to watch Rich win on Burcham's turf.

"It was a real mix of emotions, because, obviously I'm tickled to death for Dylan," Wyant said, "but I felt like I done something dirty. Burcham was so great, because, Dylan, after the race said, 'I've got to find him, just to shake his hand,' and he did, and Burcham gave him a big smile like 'Oh, you got me.' It was good for both of them. I don't think we'll be seeing Jacob get beat much more this year."

It's not likely Rich will place anywhere than first this season as well.

While Rich currently holds the state record in the mile, Rich said his favorite event is the 800.

Rich's experience as a cross country runner has provided him the tools to excel when it comes to his track events, he said.

"You definitely need the foot speed, the leg turnover that you usually wouldn't have during cross (country), but I do think cross really helped me out with my endurance in the 800," he said.

In addition to the 800 and mile, Rich runs on the 4x800 relay team and individually the two-mile (3200). In 2012, Rich placed sixth at the state meet in the 3200.

"His better events are the 800 and the mile," Wyant said. "He's getting better as a distance runner. He's going to be in the top right there at the end of the year in all three events: the 3200, and the 1600 and 800. I'm not making any predictions, but he's going to be right there in the top."

As Rich continues to build strength and confidence, Wyant said he's certain there's room for Rich to raise the bar higher and reach for greater goals.

"We haven't seen the best of what he's going to do yet," Wyant said. "He's getting stronger and stronger. Confidence, I think, is the big thing that's kicking in for him.

"We haven't seen the best of him yet. He's going to keep getting better and better. By the end of the year, he's going to be turning some heads."


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