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.