Midland has won seven state cross country team championships since the school opened in 1994 and Parsons said this year's Knights are the best team he has coached.
"This is the most talented, deep group I've ever coached," he said. "You get hunger pains in your belly and [last year's state meet] has been in our belly for a year. Jefferson came down here and ran a phenomenal race. We didn't have a good race but we still ran well. They came down here and beat us on our home course. We have nothing but the utmost respect for their program and they'll be our main competition again this year."
Burcham is one of only four West Virginia runners to break 16 minutes this season.
His time of 15:04 at the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational in Louisville, Ky., early this season is by far the fastest of the four with George Washington's Matthew Brafford, Jefferson's Ryan Graf and Fairmont Senior's Nick Trefz all breaking the 16-minute barrier but none with a time faster than 15:47 (posted by Brafford in the Class AAA, Region 3 meet last week).
Burcham cannot win the team title on his own for Midland, but the Knights have a stable of runners ready to, well, make a run at Jefferson.
Avery Campbell, a senior, was 74th at last year's state meet for Midland but has been one of the team's strongest runners behind Burcham this season. Parsons said Campbell was not necessarily more talented than other runners but put in the work to raise his output on the course.
"The biggest thing that Avery has done is he understands that it's a year-round thing," Parsons said. "I can help direct and guide you on what you should be doing, but when it comes down to it you are the one that has to do it. Coming into our season he always produced in the workouts."
Parsons said that while Burcham, Campbell and the rest of the deep Midland squad acknowledge they are the favorites today, they know that does not mean anything unless they perform up to expectations on the course .
"We haven't raced Jefferson or University," he said. "You can be ranked whatever but unless you do it on Saturday and prove it, it means nothing."
Reach Tom Bragg at tom.br...@wvgazette.com.