Cabell Midland's Jacob Burcham is a two-time defending state cross country champion.
For most boys cross country teams, the regional meet is an opportunity to qualify for the state meet or perhaps to sneak a runner or two into the field at states.
Cabell Midland is not most cross country teams.
The Knights, who have won six Class AAA cross country state championships, finished second to Jefferson in 2011 and are on track for another showdown with the Cougars next week in Ona at the state meet.
With a wealth of talent and depth, Midland has been racing with the goal of hoisting a seventh state championship trophy in mind all season. Today's Class AAA Region 4 meet at Meadowoods Park in Tornado will serve as something of a tune up for next week's state meet at the Knight's home course.
One problem Midland has had this year, if you can call it that, is having too much talent. Each team is only allowed seven runners in regional and state meets, and Knights coach Chris Parsons has been tasked with trimming his list to get the seven best from his stable of runners.
"We have got 15 very good runners that have run 18 minutes or better," Parsons said after his team won the Mountain State Athletic Conference meet at Cedar Lakes in Ripley last week. "We're always happy to win the conference, but the most important thing is the outcome of what happened with the teammates. They were more or less racing each other."
The team is led by senior Jacob Burcham, the two-time defending individual state champion. Burcham ran away from the field at last week's MSAC meet, but he wasn't the only Knight to fare well.
Six Midland runners (including Burcham) finished in the top 10 at Cedar Lakes, with a seventh coming in 11th place.
With the Knights perennially at the lead of the pack, the other teams in the region - Huntington, Hurricane, Lincoln County, Logan, Nitro, Point Pleasant, Spring Valley, St. Albans and Winfield - might be running for second place at best.
In Class AAA Region 3, Ripley appears to be the favorite following a strong showing at the MSAC meet. George Washington's Matthew Brafford, runner-up to Burcham at the MSACs, is one of the top runners in the state and figures to be the favorite to take the individual title at the regional.
On the girls side, Hurricane and Cabell Midland will battle for the Class AAA, Region 4 crown. The Redskins won the MSAC team title led by junior Tori Dent's second-place finish but also have strong runners in Emily Schwendiman, Baylee Summers and Abby Short.
In Region 3, Capital could come out of today's race with a team title and a spot at the state meet. The Cougars are led by sophomore Peyton Panger, who won the individual MSAC title with a time of 19:15.20.
In Class AA-A, teams from the Kanawha Valley will have to make a bit of a trek for their regional meets.
Boys and girls teams from Charleston Catholic, Buffalo, Calhoun County, Gilmer County, Herbert Hoover, Poca, Nicholas County, Ravenswood, Scott, Sissonville, St. Joseph's, Tolsia, Wayne and Wirt County will make the trip to Summersville for the Region 4 meet and a chance to qualify for the state meet.
On the boys side, Charleston Catholic's Marcus Black and Buffalo's Dylan Rich should contend for the individual title with their teams figuring to be battling for the team title.
In the girls race, Ravenswood is the favorite with Hailey Miller leading the way.
Reach Tom Bragg at email@example.com.