Burcham back for more
There was a Jacob Burcham sighting at Laidley Field Friday night.
It was the first time the decorated Cabell Midland junior had run at West Virginia's mecca for track and field since his triumphant performance in last year's state meet, when he set Class AAA records in all three individual distance events.
Burcham took it a bit easier Friday, competing in just three events - the 400-meter dash, open 800 and 4x400 relay - during the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship meet.
He began his night by winning the 400, an event in which he rarely competes, with a time of 50.82 seconds, then added a meet record of 1:53.0 in the 800 and helped the Knights to victory in the meet-ending 4x400, which nearly brought them from behind to capture their third straight MSAC title.
Midland finished with 95 points in the boys meet, 1/3 shy of Parkersburg, which wrapped up the crown by placing fourth in the 4x400. Woodrow Wilson (931/3) ran a close third.
In the girls meet, Hurricane dominated from start to finish with 133 points, more than doubling runner-up Parkersburg (62), with Capital (611/2) third.
Track fans won't be able to see Burcham back at Laidley for two more weeks, when he returns to defend his state meet titles in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 and most likely runs in a relay event to be determined by next week's regional.
Burcham didn't hesitate when asked what he can do for an encore after sweeping three distance events - all with meet-record times - as a mere sophomore.
"Set them again,'' he said. "Hopefully I get faster every year. Set them one year and set them again next year.''
Last year, Burcham turned in times of 1:54.01 in the 800, 4:08.8 in the 1,600 and 9:11.29 in the 3,200 at the state meet to go along with his second consecutive AAA individual cross country championship.
The only meet mark in track that escaped Burcham's grasp last year was in the 4x400 relay, as he and the Knights finished second to Jefferson.
This season, Burcham has been running on Midland's 4x800 relay unit, and with great success. Their clocking of 7:51.89 in the Taco Bell Classic in Columbia, S.C., is faster than the existing state meet record of 7:52.14 set by Hedgesville in 1995.
Burcham's talent has earned him recent invitations to several prestigious meets across the country. In fact, he's missed a couple of dates with the rest of Midland's team this year because he ran at the Taco Bell Classic and at the Penn Relays at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, where he placed a close second in the high school boys mile run, setting an all-time West Virginia mark of 4:09.49.
In the preseason, he competed at indoor meets in Seattle and New York. Earlier, Burcham was runner-up in the Great America Cross Country Festival in North Carolina and placed seventh in the 1,500 meters at the 2011 IAAF World Youth Championships in Lille, France, with an American-record time of 3:46.55.
He's captured two straight McCoy Awards as the state's male track athlete of the year.
Burcham said it hasn't proven difficult to focus on his high school season after months of criss-crossing the country to compete in high-level events.
"I set up my training for the last meets of the year,'' he said, "which is usually the national meet right after states. I try to peak right after the state meet, but I've been in pretty good shape most of the season anyway.
"I don't really change what I eat wherever I go. Usually I eat fast food. I'm not really picky about what I eat. I get some sleep and I usually feel fine.''
In the girls meet, another familiar face was back at Laidley Field after missing most of the high school meets held there this season - St. Albans sprinter Anacia Hines.
Hines, a freshman competing in just her second meet at Laidley this spring, won both the 100-meter hurdles and 100 dash a few minutes apart in the early portion of the MSAC championships. She later added a title in the 200 and was the meet's only individual triple winner.
She just missed her respective best times of the season in the first two events, running a 15.64 in the hurdles (shy of her previous 15.60 clocking) and 12.59 in the 100 (earlier, she ran a 12.49). Her personal bests in those events represent the No. 2 (100 dash) and No. 3 (100 hurdles) times in the state among AAA athletes this season.
Her unusual combination of events gives her only a short amount of recovery time in a one-day meet schedule. She estimated she had 15 minutes between the hurdles and dash finals Friday.
"It's not that bad,'' Hines said, "because I guess I get a really big adrenaline rush. I just eat healthy, get a lot of water before my next event. But it's all adrenaline right now.
"Running with the [Capital City] Striders kind of prepared me for that, though. We run in the heat, and we went to places like North Carolina and Michigan for meets.''
Hines said her biggest adjustment this season hasn't been the small amount of rest between events, but rather the distance of the hurdles. Middle school athletes run a 75-meter course, much shorter than the 100s in high school.
"It's difficult,'' Hines said, "but I push myself. I want to get [a time] of 14-something or 15 flat in the hurdles.''
There were six repeat winners in the meet - three in each division.
Besides Burcham, other double winners in the boys meet were Ramon Edwards of Woodrow Wilson (100, 200) and A.J. White of Hurricane (shot put, discus). In addition to Hines, girls with more than one win were Bethany Drury of SA (shot put, discus) and Peyton Panger of Capital (1,600, 3,200).
Four meet records were set - Burcham in the 800, Woodrow's boys in the 4x100 (42.75), Drury in the shot (40-2) and George Washington's Adrian Cunningham in the girls 300 hurdles (46.75).
The MSAC unveiled its athletes and coaches of the year (as voted by the league coaches) - Burcham (boys) and Drury (girls), along with Scott James of St. Albans (girls coach) and Chris Parsons of Cabell Midland (boys coach).
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.