CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In West Virginia, they're considered track and field royalty.
Several hundred talented athletes will grace Laidley Field today and Saturday for the 96th high school state track and field meet, but five of those - all seniors - are among the most decorated in the history of the sport.
They include four multiple all-time record holders and four Division I recruits:
Jacob Burcham, Cabell Midland - An Oklahoma recruit, he's captured seven championships, six individual events and the 4x800-meter relay as a freshman. He holds Class AAA state meet records in the 800 (1:54.01), 1,600 (4:08.80) and 3,200 (8:57.73), and is the only runner in West Virginia to ever crack the sub-9-minute barrier in the 3,200.
Maggie Drazba, St. Marys - Already signed by the track program at West Virginia, she's been part of 10 Class A state meet wins in her career - nine individual events and the 4x800 last year. Last season, she broke her own state meet marks in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 despite having no one to push her. She's already run faster this year than her state-record times in the 1,600 (4:56.23) and 3,200 (10:59.09).
Emily Godwin, Buckhannon-Upshur - Bound for North Carolina, she's already won nine times at the AAA state meet - all individual events - before her swan song this weekend. She owns meet records in the 100 hurdles (14.60 seconds) and 300 hurdles (44.23), and hopes to push her team to its third state championship in four years.
Dante Price, Jefferson - The state's top sprinter for three years running, he's taken four individual titles and been part of three relay victories at the AAA state meet. He doesn't own any individual meet records, but part of that's due to the phenomenal times set by Jefferson's James Jett more than a generation ago (see chart).
Price's all-time bests of 10.66 in the 100 and 21.66 in the 200, though, place him within striking distance of those respective meet marks (10.59, 21.39). He has been part of one meet record, anchoring the Cougars to a time of 42.20 in the 4x100 last year.
He's signed to compete at Virginia Tech, which won the ACC indoor meet championship this year and placed second in the conference outdoor meet.
"I'm very excited about that,'' Price said at the recent Gazette/Friends of Coal Relays. "I get to transition back into a strong team. They've got some really fast guys, and I can't wait to run behind those guys and have them help me to faster times. I'm counting down the days.''
Bria Welker, Frankfort - She's won seven state titles, all in individual events, despite missing her sophomore season with a torn ACL. Recovering from a second ACL tear this year, she's added the 300 hurdles (dropping the long jump) to a lineup that saw her win four events at Laidley in 2012. She holds AA meet marks in the 200 (25.15) and 400 (57.13). WVU and Coastal Carolina are in the mix as a possible college destination.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.