West Virginia has its share of national treasures.
Some, like coal, are obvious to everyone except the politicians in our nation's capital. One not-so-obvious-one, revolves around the sports of cross country and track.
Juniors Maggie Drazba from St. Marys and Jacob Burcham from Cabell Midland enter the summer months among the top runners in their age groups-not statewide, but nationally.
Both put on a show worth seeing at the West Virginia State High School Track and Field championships at Laidley Field. However, only one will have the opportunity to continue her career (should she chose) at our state's flagship institution-WVU.
The Mountaineers' decision to drop men's cross country and track and field from its list of competitive teams several seasons ago as a means to cut expenses and at the same time stay within Title IX regulations means that the Knights' standout-a shoe-in to receive a full scholarship at any D-I school in the country-will have to look outside his native state if he wishes to compete against some of the best runners in our country.
Yes, Burcham could become a member of the Thundering Herd at nearby Marshall University-a short run for the long distance standout. But, with all due respect to the green and white, picturing Burcham competing in Conference USA would be akin to watching Kobe Bryant putting on the uniform of the Lakers' developmental league team.
Making the entire situation a little harder to digest is the knowledge that WVU?Director of Athletics Oliver Luck is looking to add golf to the Mountaineers' list of competitive teams. Not to say that golf isn't important or to imply that Luck, who has turned around the Mountaineers' athletic programs since taking over, isn't doing a wonderful job as the head of the old gold and blue.
I understand the costs involved in adding any sport. But, it would appear that those expenses would be somewhat diminished as WVU already has a top-notch coaching staff led by Sean Cleary, and, let's face it, the Mountaineers are already booking flights to compete against their new rivals in the Big 12 in women's cross country and track.
Just imagine the Mountaineer football teams from 1989-92 minus one of its standout players James Jett.
Jett, who later was drafted by the NFL's Oakland Raiders, was not only an exciting player to watch at Mountaineer Field, but the speedster honed his running skills as a member of the track team and later earned an Olympic gold medal.
That would not be possible today.
Wouldn't it be great to see Burcham afforded the opportunity to wear the colors of our state's flagship university while he competes for national, and international, recognition?
It is an accepted fact that our state produces a minute number of D-I football players-less than that in basketball-but, we could field a very competitive team with in-state talent when it comes to cross country and track and field.
Contact Jim Butta at email@example.com