Prep cross country: Burcham, Knights look to claim title
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Training began in the summer, with tapering the last few weeks, all for the chance to give the best effort in the biggest race.
Cross country runners from across the state will put their hard work and skills to the test at the State Meet at Cabell Midland in Ona on Saturday. The Class AA-A boys will begin the day's event at 10 a.m., with the girls to follow at 10:45 a.m. The Class AAA boys race will begin at 1 p.m. with the girls to run at 1:45 p.m.
At this point, the preparation has passed. It's time to race.
"If they're not ready by now, they'll never be ready," Midland Coach Chris Parsons said.
Midland will seek its third title in four years. Last season, the Knights placed second, three points behind champion Jefferson.
This season, Midland enters the state meet ranked first, according to RunWV.com, with Jefferson second.
"None of that means anything unless you can go out on Saturday and come on top," Parsons said, "and then you'll know you're No. 1, but if you don't do that, ranking's just a number on a piece of paper."
Nine of Midland's runners rank in the state's top 38, yet only seven may represent the Knights Saturday. Seniors Jacob Burcham, Avery Campbell, Brian Lawhon, Jeremy Waugh, Mason Dino and freshmen Andrew Short and Nick Salmons, the same group that won the team's Region 4 title, will race at the State Meet, Parsons said.
Individually, Midland figures to boast a champion as well in Burcham, the state's most heralded runner. Burcham ranks first among Class AAA boys and top 10 nationally.
Burcham is the individual two-time defending state champ and owns the Midland course record at 15:12. Burcham's goals Saturday, will be team first as he pursues another championship, Parsons said.
"I think his goal really is No. 1 to help lead his team to a state title," he said. "That's a big goal for him. Another thing is, he would like to definitely win and make it three in a row and go out on top as far as racing in West Virginia, and he would like to run fast doing it."
Beyond Midland and Jefferson, University, Parkersburg and Morgantown should factor into the next three team spots. Among local teams, Ripley, Oak Hill and Hurricane will aim for the top 10, as well as Huntington and George Washington.
For Hurricane, it's the first boys team to qualify for the State Meet in school history.
With Drake Securro as the lone Redskins senior racing at state, the future's bright for greater success, too.
"It's just a really cool experience to be able to watch these guys start to buy into not just getting to states this year, but the possibility of what Hurricane cross country can become," Hurricane Coach Jason Henley said.
Individually, several local runners are expected to be among the state's best, including GW junior Matthew Brafford. Behind Burcham, Brafford will battle Jefferson runners Ryan Graf and Andrew Milliron. By beating those runners, Brafford would also aid Midland's team title hopes.
In addition, Midland's Campbell is expected to be in the top 10, as well as Levi Snedegar, of Greenbrier East, and Oak Hill's Wes Stowers.
Class AAA girls - With six runners rated in the top 14, Morgantown is expected to claim the championship with relative ease.
Defending champ Victoria Cooke and teammate Brynn Harshbarger are expected to contend for the individual title, as well as University's Amelia Paladino and several others.
As everyone else races for second, Hurricane will battle University as the favorites to finish behind Morgantown.
Junior Tori Dent, who is expected to finish in the top 10, leads a rather deep Redskins team.
In the next tier of teams, Winfield and Midland will fight for a spot in the state's top five.
Meanwhile, Capital, Greenbrier East and Shady Spring will race representing Region 3.
Capital sophomore Peyton Panger will be expected to finish among the state's top 10, while Generals runner Brittney McMillion, Midland's Jorden Thornton and Hurricane senior Emily Schwendiman could also place top 10 with an outstanding effort.
Class AA-A boys - Fairmont Senior is the favorite to win the team championship, with Philip Barbour, Frankfort, Bridgeport and Doddridge County following. In addition, Buffalo and Charleston Catholic are expected to finish in the top half of the standings and possibly contend for a top 5 spot.
Individually, Fairmont Senior's Nick Trefz should win comfortably. Behind Trefz, Scott's Will Shaffer will be among several contenders racing for second.
Catholic senior Marcus Black, rated fifth in the state, said he's ready to leave his mark, too.
Last season, Black finished 11th as he faltered in the final stretch of the state meet. This season, Black said he's worked to overcome any possible late race letdown.
"All season I've been finishing strong, I've had a kick," he said. "I don't think I've been passed up at all in the last 400 meters of any race this year. Hopefully, I can keep it that way Saturday."
For Buffalo, like Black with Catholic, Dylan Rich will aim for a top 10 spot, too, as he leads the Bison.
Class AA-A girls - While Philip Barbour should win its third title in a row, Scott will battle Frankfort and possibly others for second place.
Scott defeated Ravenswood for the Region 4 championship, as both teams advanced to the State Meet. Scott should contend for second place, while Ravenswood is expected to finish closer to the middle of the pack of the 12 teams competing.
There will be no drama for first place individually as St. Marys senior Maggie Drazba is expected to win by a minute or more.
Among the best locally, Ravenswood's Hailey Miller is expected to contend for a top 10 spot, as will Scott's Brittany Green.