CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The individual names lack household recognition, but the Cabell Midland boys cross country program remains among the most prominent heading into today's regional championship.
The Knights graduated many of their talented standouts, including three-time individual state champion Jacob Burcham, from last year's AAA title team, though Midland continues to be the team to beat. Midland will host the AAA Region 4 championship today, while other area runners will compete in the AAA Region 3 and AA/A Region 4 meets to be hosted by Ripley.
"Our concentration there will be to qualify healthy, qualify as a team and be healthy and ready to go to the state meet," Knights Coach Chris Parsons said.
Midland, ranked second in the state for boys AAA by www.runwv. com, returns just one topseven member, in sophomore Nick Salmons, from last year's championship team. This season, Salmons ranks 16th in the state.
While Salmons paces the team, the rest follow in quick succession, Parsons said.
"They run as a pack," he said. "If you see our first guy coming in, it won't be long until the rest of them come following."
Senior Eric Wooten (27th) represents the Knights' top-ranked senior on an otherwise young and unknown squad, but it's not a team lacking talent.
"It's finally like it's their turn," Parsons said of his runners. "They were kind of like in the stables, itching, waiting for their time."
Midland enters the meet a week after winning the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship. Hurricane, ranked third, and Winfield (seventh) figure to follow Midland to the state meet from Region 4.
Redskins Coach Jason Henley said the Knights remain an elite program despite lack of runner name recognition.
"They very much came out last week and showed that the tradition that they have as a championship team, even though the names may have changed, the tradition they have as a championship team is not something that any team in our region is going to take away easily," he said.
Hurricane enters the regional meet with a boost following the midseason eligibility of senior Jake Henley, Jason Henley's son and transfer from St. Albans.
Since joining the team, Jake Henley has provided an instant lift with his skills, currently ranked 21st in the state, as well as his spirit.
"It was an immediate turnaround for the team," Jason Henley said of his son's addition. "Everyone was a little bit more fired up than they had been for the season and they responded ridiculously well."
Beyond Hurricane, Winfield will also look to qualify for the state meet behind top runners sophomore R.J. Weiford and freshman Braxton McMillion.
Both Hurricane and Winfield will battle for the top girls team position, though both should advance, with Midland a possible third team should three squads advance from the region, depending on the amount of full teams that start the race.
The Redskins narrowly defeated the Generals during two meets this season in which both teams attended.
"We have to stay on our toes," Jason Henley said. "We're ranked No. 2 in the state, they're ranked No. 3, but just one day, one misstep, one of our people not being able to put out the race they need to put out and that could change really, really quickly. It's that close."
Hurricane senior Tori Dent (ninth) and Winfield sophomore Brittney McMillion (11th) represent the top-ranked runners for each team, but both squads boast plenty of talent throughout the roster.