ONA - Cabell Midland's Jacob Burcham ended his West Virginia prep cross country career in a blaze of glory Saturday, and that flame was left smoldering in his tread marks.The decorated senior broke the 15-minute barrier in setting a course record with a time of 14:58.02 and claimed his third individual state championship in four years on a blustery and rainy Saturday at Cabell Midland High School.Burcham finished over 48 seconds ahead of runner-up Matthew Brafford of George Washington and helped the Knights to the eighth cross country state title in school history.But Burcham, and the time he established, was all anyone was talking about at the end of the race.
"Yeah, I definitely wanted [to break 15 minutes] at the state meet," Burcham said. "I just wanted everyone to be here to see it. I can't be happier right now.""One of his goals was to crack 15 this year," Knights coach Chris Parsons said. "We really didn't think about it until the state meet because to do that we knew he was going to have to do it by himself, and as talented as he is, that was going to be a tough task."The closer we got to it, we were like 'Why not?' I said, 'Jacob you know this course, you know where the marks are. So let's go after it.' That was his best cross country performance ever."Once his spikes hit the track and that mark was in reach, Burcham went after it, kicking it into another gear and coming home in an all-out sprint that ended in a fist pump at the line."The workouts we've done the last couple weeks have all been on this course," Burcham said. "We knew every square inch of the course and I was on pace the whole time and it just builds confidence as you go."Fellow Knights seniors Avery Campbell and Mason Dino finished third and 10th, respectively, to help Midland to a dominant 38-point win over second-place University.The team title is extra sweet after the Knights fell just short to Jefferson last year."They came out here today and refused to lose," Parsons said. "Last year was a lesson learned. I knew it was going to be a great year because they got out there last winter and had a great track season. If someone was going to beat them today, they were going to have to run awfully fast."Brafford's efforts shouldn't be lost in the Cabell Midland shuffle.The GW junior was solidly in second place throughout the entire race, and finished over 15 seconds ahead of Campbell."I was ranked third but I wasn't going to let that stop me," Brafford said. "I was going to go for second and in my mind that's a win when you're going against an Olympian like [Burcham]."
With Saturday's effort, Brafford may enter next season as the favorite to succeed Burcham as the AAA champ.Also earning all-state honors with top-10 finishes were Jefferson's Andrew Milliron (4th), Preston's Brady Born (5th), Oak Hill's Wes Stowers (6th), Greenbrier East's Levi Snedegar (7th), University's Andrew Paladino (8th) and Huntington's Jack McGee (9th).As impressive as Midland's team effort was, the Morgantown girls team exceeded that lofty statement by clearing second-place University by a whopping 60 points.The Mohigans placed all five of their runners in the top 10, led by Brynn Harshbarger's second-place finish. Allison Lynch (6th), Andrea Pettit (7th), Victoria Cooke (9th) and Sydney Pineault (10th) rounded out Morgantown's scoring runners."It's really what they've done since last year," Morgantown coach Mike Ryan said. "Those girls have worked hard since June. It's basically been 20 weeks of hard training as a group and it paid off today. Our goal coming in was probably a little greedy but I wanted to get five in the top 10. We just made that so I'm happy with the overall finishes throughout."University's Amelia Paladino came home with the individual win with a time of 17:47.32, over 36 seconds clear of Harshbarger.
"I just knew that no matter what I needed to see myself in first, and whatever it took to get there is what I was going to give," Paladino said. "I was thinking, 'Melly, God made you strong enough for this and fast enough for this,' and I've trained."Capital's Peyton Panger was the highest local finisher, coming in eighth, while the Hurricane girls team ended the day in third place.Preston's Kaitlyn Workman (4th) and Jefferson's Abby Colbert (5th) also earned all-state honors.Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.