Cabell Midland senior Jacob Burcham (No. 1) owns the fastest time in the state by 46 seconds.
CHARLESTON -- Forgive Hurricane girls cross country coach Bill Posey if he seems relieved going into today's Mountain State Athletic Conference championship meet at Cedar Lakes in Ripley.
Hurricane, the defending conference champion, will finally have its full complement of runners available as the team turns its focus to big meets near home.
The Redskins have run three meets in Ohio this season and have been without at least one of their top runners for most of the 2012 season.
"This will be the first meet this season that we've run a full varsity," Posey said. "Joie Johnson, one of our better runners, and Baylee Summers are both just started running again. It's good that it's happening now. With 18 days until the state meet, that's where we need to be."
The Redskins feature a formidable team led by the returning conference individual champion, junior Tori Dent, seniors Summers and Emily Schwendiman, junior Allyson Lawhon, Johnson (a sophomore) and freshman Abbie Short. Dent recently ran a personal-best time of 19:26.06 at the Midwest Meet of Champions in Hilliard, Ohio.
"Tori runs a lot like her dad [Chuck Dent of DuPont] did when he was in high school," Posey said. "She's got a lot more speed than her sister had [former state champ Alex Dent] and runs well at the front. She probably needs more big meet experience. Other than that, she has a lot of potential. She's got everything there, she just needs to continue to develop."
Parkersburg owns the fastest time in the conference (Kaylee Williams' 19:23.9) in addition to the third-fastest time (Nicole Dent's 19.58.1) and appears to be among the lead contenders to take the team title away from Hurricane.
In the race for individual girls honors, Capital sophomore Peyton Panger, who came in second at last year's conference meet, returns with the second-fastest time for an MSAC runner behind Parkersburg's Williams.
"We beat [Parkersburg] by two points at GEICO but once again Baylee and Joie didn't run," Posey said. "It will be interesting to see how that plays out. Winfield has strong runners and you always have Midland."
The race for the boys team and individual titles appears to be more clear-cut.
Cabell Midland, winner of every MSAC boys cross country title since 2000, is anchored by senior sensation Jacob Burcham and owns six of the 10 fastest individual times in the MSAC this season, with Burcham's 15:04.4 standing as the fastest by an MSAC runner by almost a minute and the fastest in West Virginia this season by 46 seconds.
Burcham's top time, oddly enough, was only fast enough for second place at the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational in Louisville, Ky., earlier this season, behind Jacob Thompson, owner of the fastest time in Kentucky this season, from Holy Cross High School.
Burcham's time currently ranks as the 12th-fastest by a high schooler in the country this season (Thompson is third on that list).
You do not win 12 consecutive MSAC championships with a one-man team, however. Midland's Avery Campbell, Brian Lawhon, Jeremy Waugh, Andrew Short, David Globe and Nick Slamons all have top-10 times among MSAC runners this season.
One Kanawha Valley runner is among the top runners in the conference. George Washington's Matthew Brafford took third place at last year's MSAC meet and currently owns the second-fastest time in the conference, running a 16:03 at the Chik-Fil-A Invitational in Mineral Wells in early September.
Reach Tom Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org.