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Prep track: For Riffle, win over Burcham ‘amazing’

By Nick Brockman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Records fell, dynasties set and extended, all the while legendary performances reigned across the University of Charleston's Laidley Field at the West Virginia high school track and field state championships Friday and Saturday.

As expected, Cabell Midland's Jacob Burcham, an Oklahoma commit, produced one of the biggest individual performances as he defended his titles in the 1600-meter run and 3200 and helped the Knights establish a new meet record in the 4x800.

For all Burcham's accomplishments, one of the meet's most notable feats came from Point Pleasant senior Caleb Riffle, who took the title in another of Burcham's signature events, the 800.

Though mere seconds separated Burcham's season-best time from the rest of the field, his name and accolades carry weight among the West Virginia running community so that few expected anyone to compete with him.

"We knew coming into it that Cabell Midland's who we had to go after," Point Pleasant Coach Matt Cottrill said. "It's sort of like one of those sayings 'Shoot for the moon and you'll end up in the stars.' That's what we were going for. Stay with Cabell Midland, get as close to Burcham, as close as you can and you know you're going to run a good time and maybe fall second or third. The result of getting first place is overwhelming."

Entering the race, Riffle, who will run collegiately at West Virginia Wesleyan, posted the fourth-best time of the season among Class AAA boys for the 800, with Burcham and Midland's Brian Lawhon and Mason Dino as the top three.

"I was pretty well motivated going in there, because I was pre-ranked fourth," Riffle said. "I know I didn't really have any good times to put up to be ranked higher, but I wanted to prove everyone wrong."

In proving others wrong, Riffle set a new personal-record and school record for the 800. He finished in 1:54.98, while Lawhon took second (1:55.31) and Burcham third (1:55.46).

"It was an amazing feeling, because no one thought I could do it, no one there," Riffle said. "Only me and my coach and my family. Even my teammates had their doubts.

"Going into the race I knew that I had a better kick than them. They were just a lot stronger than me. I thought if I stuck with them through the first 200 meters, then I could out-kick them there at the end and that's exactly what I did. As soon as we got to the 100-meter mark and I started gaining on them and catching them, I think I passed them with about 50 meters to go, I just knew I had it. It was a great feeling."

Cottrill said Riffle won behind a combination of talent, but also determination.

"We can't believe what people tell us on paper, what people predict," Cottrill said. "He's one of those examples we used all year that you don't believe what's on paper. You just have to go out there and do it, and last year he ended up third (in the 800) and wasn't even picked. I think he did the exact same thing again this year. He was picked fourth, and he didn't believe what was on that paper. He went out and blew everybody's expectations out of the water coming in first."

While Midland missed claiming first in the 800, the Knights performed exceptionally, winning the 1600, 3200, 4x800, 110 hurdles and shuttle hurdles relays.

Still, no one could catch Jefferson as it secured its fourth consecutive Class AAA boys team championship. Midland finished second, with Parkersburg third.

"This is a great team that we have, and one of the better teams I've ever had, especially with the hurdlers doing what they did this year," Midland Coach Chris Parsons said. "We had a very, very strong team. Unfortunately, Jefferson was just a greater team. They just have more firepower. They were in five extra events that we weren't even in. They just had too much."

Jefferson's Dante Price led the Cougars and all Class AAA boys as top-point scorer. Price, a Virginia Tech commit, won the 100, 200, 400 and anchored Jefferson's winning 4x200 relay.

In Class AAA girls, Emily Godwin, of Buckhannon-Upshur, dominated in equal fashion as Price by winning the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, long jump and high jump. Like Price, Godwin, who's committed to the University of North Carolina, led her team to first place, with Morgantown second and Washington third. Winfield placed fourth as the top Kanawha Valley team. Barkley Castro captured Winfield's lone title by winning the 800.

The dominating efforts didn't end there on the girls side. In Class AA, Frankfort's Bria Walker won four events (100, 200, 400 and 300 hurdles), while teammate Katie Jan claimed first in the 800, 1600 and 3200. The teammates led Frankfort to victory past Bridgeport for their efforts.

For Class A girls, Maggie Drazba, of St. Marys, and Doddridge's D'Andra Swiger dominated competition, with Drazba defending her titles in the 800, 1600 and 3200. Swiger won the 200, 300 hurdles and long jump, respectively, and finished tied for second in the high jump. Ultimately, Swiger's points were not enough to catch Williamstown, who won the team title, with Doddridge second. Charleston Catholic finished fifth.

In Class A boys, Buffalo's 4x800 relay won for the third consecutive year, as senior Dylan Rich and junior Isaiah Robinson have ran on each championship relay. Individually, Rich, committed to the University of Kentucky, won the 800 and 1600 as well. Behind Rich's effort, Buffalo finished third in the team standings. Doddridge took first, with Williamstown second.

Poca's Christian Buckley also won two individual titles by besting the field in both the discus and shot put.

As a team, the Dots finished sixth. Ritchie County won the team title, its second in a row, while Roane County finished second.

In Class AAA boys, Capital freshman Tristan Slater captured the title in pole vault with a height of 14 feet, 6 inches.


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