IF YOU READ this column with any regularity, you know I write about track and field as much as I write about my favorite cooking recipes. (For the record, though, my favorite recipe: Place meal in microwave. Pull back corner of film to vent. Cook on full for three minutes. Spoon gravy over meat and stir vegetables. Cook for another two minutes and let sit for one.)
For once, though, I'm moved to write of this weekend's state track meet in Charleston. It could be something special - something the casual sports fan might want to take in.
In Tuesday's Gazette, you got a taste of what I'm cooking here. Jacob Burcham, a junior at Cabell Midland, has a chance to be the best distance runner in West Virginia history - if he isn't already.
He'll run in four events and has far and away the best times this season in the 800-meter run (1:53.0), 1,600 (4:08.04) and 3,200 (9:00.21). He already holds the state-meet records in all three and could break all three again.
If you still doubt whether he's The Man, know he participated in the prestigious Penn Relays and lost a race to the finish in the mile to Craig Engels of North Carolina by 4:09.49 to 4:09.42.
He is NOT, however, the only attraction. (If he were, I wouldn't be writing this. I promise.)
Check out these other marquee qualifiers and see if, like me, your interest is piqued.
Cam Viney, senior, Elkins: Viney is headed to Illinois on a track scholarship and is a prohibitive favorite in the Class AAA 110 high hurdles and 300 intermediate hurdles. He'll also run the 400 and 200, opting out of the 800, where he's run sub-2:00. He was the high-point man last year, but Burcham only ran three individual events and a relay. This year both are in four individual events, including a meeting in the 400. Should be fun.
Errin Baynes, senior, Wheeling Park: One of the nation's top high jumpers and a two-time state champ, this three-sport athlete signed a track scholarship with Southern Cal. He jumped 7 feet, one-quarter inch last year and has a best of 6-10 this year. He was also pretty good on Park's basketball team, a soccer star and his GPA is over 4.0. He's not likely to approach the mark set by Elkins' Nathan Fields (7-3 in 1998), but there aren't many chances to see a potential 7-foot jumper here.
Brandon Franklin, senior, Liberty: Franklin scored 40 points in the Class AA meet last year, 36 the year before and should score 40 this year with wins in the 100, 200, 400 and long jump. He has far and away the best AA marks during the season and the best 400 and long jump marks in all classes: 48.24 and 22-9, respectively. He easily defeated Viney in the Big 10 meet a couple weeks ago in the 400.
Emily Godwin, junior, Buckhannon: This is quite an athlete. In soccer, Godwin was the state Midfielder of the Year. She's something in track, too. If you want versatility, well, at one time or another this season she's run the 100, 200, 400, 800, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and competed in the long jump and high jump. This weekend she'll run both hurdles as well as the jumps. She has, by far, the best marks this season in all, according to Runwv.com. She'll be a heptathlete in college just like BU's Chelsea Carrier, but might have even more potential at this point. She too competed in the Penn Relays.
Maggie Drazba, senior, St. Marys: Drazba is certainly one to watch because of her times. She recorded a 4:51.88 in the 1,600 and 10:27.42 in the 3,200 (as well as 2:19.83 in the 800). Both of those distance marks blew away the old unofficial state records. She could conceivably lap some of the other place winners in the 3,200 TWICE.
What's nice is the show won't stop there. There's a 15-foot pole vaulter at Preston (Thomas Nash, a senior). Junior Bria Welker from Frankfort could score 40 points via the 100, 200, 400 and long jump.
And then there's a kid named Casey Pingley from Valley Wetzel who is the favorite in the Class A 100 (defending champ) and 200 and is built like a guard/fullback. He's 5-8, 190 pounds, and was a second-team all-state selection as a running back with numerous 200-plus-yard rushing games.
It has all the ingredients to be one of West Virginia's best track meets ever.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.