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Prep cross country: Burcham accomplishes goals at State Meet

By Nick Brockman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As if Jacob Burcham needed another feather in his cap, the Cabell Midland senior runner added a few more at the West Virginia Cross Country Championships in Ona on Saturday.

Burcham set a course record (14:58.04) en route to his third boys Class AAA individual title in four years. Burcham's fellow Knights followed in stellar fashion as Midland won the Class AAA team title too.

After racing for most of the season away from West Virginia, Burcham returned to his home course with two goals in mind: break 15 minutes and lead the Knights to victory.

"I tried to break 15 in the past before," Burcham said. "I've tried three or four times and came really close, but I never really did it. It kind of gets frustrating after a while and you try to kind of use that as your own competition to try and beat yourself."

To reach his desired mark, Cabell Midland Coach Chris Parsons said Burcham remained steadfast throughout the race.

"He knew he couldn't let off the pedal at any time," Parsons said. "He was pushing. He looked like he was in total control, he looked strong, but you could just tell that he was pushing the entire way. There was never a point where he lost focus."

For Midland, it was a bit of redemption to avenge last year's runner-up showing, Burcham said, as the full complement of Knights runners raced with purpose.

"They came into the meet really focused and we were a lot more prepared than last year," he said. "We just needed to all run our race. They all did their part."

All five of the Knights' scoring runners placed in the top 15 overall en route to the program's eighth state title. Midland finished 38 points ahead of University, with Jefferson third.

While Burcham stole the limelight, George Washington's Matthew Brafford ran with vigor as well to place second at 15:42, and Midland senior Avery Campbell finished third in 15:57.

Mason Dino, another Knights senior, earned All-State honors too with his 10th-place finish. Andrew Short (14th) and Brian Lawhon (15th) narrowly missed the honored distinction as well in contributing strong performance to the Knights first-place showing. Jeremy Waugh (20th) and Nick Salmons (28th) rounded out the Midland effort.

"Those boys were focused and they were ready to do whatever it took to bring that title back," Parsons said as each Midland runner finished sub-17 minutes.

Other area runners to earn All-State accolades in boys AAA included Wes Stowers (sixth, Oak Hill), Levi Snedegar (seventh, Greenbrier East) and Jack McGee (ninth, Huntington).

Hurricane senior Drake Seccurro paced the Redskins to finish 35th in 17:04, capping a running career in which he overcame Crohn's disease to reach the state meet. Hurricane finished seventh of 12 teams in its first-ever appearance at the state meet for the boys squad.

Ryan Gregory led Ripley with his 34th-place finish. Ripley finished fifth as a team.

Class AAA girls - Morgantown won the team championship convincingly with a 60-point cushion against University, while Hurricane claimed third.

Despite many strong individual performances, Hurricane Coach Bill Posey said the team was disappointed to not finish higher in the team standings.

"They knew Morgantown was an elite team, but my seniors went into that race fully expecting to finish second, and that didn't happen," he said.

Redskins senior Emily Schwendiman led Hurricane, claiming 16th place in 19:38. Joie Johnston (19th) and Tori Dent (22nd) followed closely behind for the Redskins as well.

Posey said he was particularly impressed by Johnston's performance as an injury prevented her from racing until Sept. 29.

There were many local runners running with the upper echelon of the field. Capital sophomore Peyton Panger paced the locals finishing eighth in 19:12.

Midland senior Jorden Thornton placed 12th to lead the fifth-place Knights.

Parsons said he was equally happy with his girls team as the champion boys, as the girls entered the race ranked seventh in the state.

"I tell you what, I'm as proud of them that I am the boys," Parsons said. "That's their best race all season."

For Winfield, freshman Brittney McMillion led the way. McMillion took 15th, with fellow freshman and teammate Rachel Englund in 18th, as Winfield finished seventh of 12 teams.

University's Amelia Paladino won the individual title in 17:47, beating Morgantown's Brynn Harshbarger by 36 seconds. Defending champ Victoria Cooke, of Morgantown, finished ninth.

Class AA-A boys - Three different local runners claimed All-State honors led by Buffalo's Dylan Rich.

Rich finished in 16:12, four seconds ahead of Charleston Catholic senior Marcus Black. Scott senior Will Shaffer rounded out the trio in seventh place.

Rich led a solid effort for the Bison, who finished fifth, best among local teams. Hayden Harrison (23rd), Conner Lamb (34th) and Tyler Torman (37th) followed Rich for Buffalo.

Black improved six spots from his 11th place finish in 2011. Fellow Irish runner Caden McClanahan claimed 22nd place as the Irish finished seventh as a team.

Fairmont Senior's Nick Trefz won the individual title in 15:52 to pace Fairmont to the team championship as well. Frankfort followed in second place, with Doddridge County third.

Class AA-A girls - St. Marys senior Maggie Drazba ended her high school cross country career in equally impressive fashion as Burcham, claiming her third title in four years. Drazba finished in 17:17.89 to beat the course record by 15 seconds.

"It was incredible," Parsons said of Drazba's race. "There's some coaches that would love to have her on their boys team."

After Drazba, the next competitor - Katie Jan, of Frankfort - crossed in second place in 19:23, more than two minutes after Drazba.

Scott and Ravenswood represented local runners in fine fashion, finishing third and fifth respectively, with both schools pacing area runners.

Ravenswood's Hailey Miller led locals with her 11th place finish, and teammate Taylor Treadway followed in 17th.

Skyhawks senior Brittany Green paced Scott to finish 18th.

Philip Barbour edged Frankfort by six points for the team championship.


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