ST. MARYS-West Virginia has long been known for its beautiful mountains, its sparkling streams and its abundance of coal and natural gas.
Now, add long distance running to that list.
Seniors Jacob Burcham from Cabell Midland High School and St. Marys' Maggie Drazba not only have been making a name for themselves while competing in championship meets around the country, but also have turned the spotlight on their home state.
St. Marys cross country and track standout Maggie Drazba is this year’s female recipient of the McCoy Award as the state track athlete of the year. Drazba will be honored at the 67th Annual Victory Awards dinner in Clarksburg on May 5.
Those successes earned them another honor as the duo has been named the male and female recipients of the McCoy Award as the state track athlete of the year presented annually by the W.Va. Sports Writers Association. Burcham and Drazba will be honored by the WVSWA at the 67th Annual Victory Awards dinner in Clarksburg on May 5.
"Honored and humble," said Drazba, who has been running since the seventh grade. "I am really honored to receive this award."
Drazba, who finished second in last year's balloting, topped runnerup Emily Godwin from Buckhannon-Upshur High School. Rounding out the top four votegetters were Martinsburg's Jasmyn Hosby and Frankfort's Bria Welker. Finishing second to Burcham was Wheeling Park's Errin Baynes followed by Dante Price from Jefferson and Brandon Franklin from Liberty Harrison.
Burcham, who finished second to WVU's Tavon Austin for the Hardman Amateur Athlete of the Year Award, became only the fourth male athlete to be the recipient three times, joined only St. Marys' Steve Taylor (1981-83) as winner of three consecutive McCoy awards. Olympic gold medalists Randy Barnes (1985, 1988, 1990) and James Jett (1989, 1991, 1992) were the other two three-time winners.
Drazba, the repeat Gatorade State Cross Country honoree, will enter her final track season this spring with the Blue Devils as the defending state champion-and record holder-in the Class A 800 (2:20.35), 1600 (4:56.23) and 3200 (10:59.09) meter runs as well as anchoring the team's record-setting 4 by 800 meter relay squad (9:48.85).
Burcham was just as dominant in Class AAA as the Knights' standout captured the 800 (1:54.01), 1600 (4:08.91) and 3200 (8:57.73) . Like Drazba, he is the state record holder in all three events although his winning time in the 1600 fell .11 seconds off of his record mark of 4:08.80 set the year before.
Both carried that success into the fall, capturing their respective division's titles in cross country. Burcham lowered his own state record mark of 15 minutes, 12.16 seconds when he crossed the finish line with a time of 14:58.04 while Drazba established a new course mark of 17 minutes, 17.89 seconds in winning her third individual state championship during her four year tenure at the Pleasants County school.
That was just the beginning, however, for both.
At the Grand Prix Dream Mile, Burcham set an all-time state mark of 4 minutes, 2.73 seconds, won the mile at the New Balance National Outdoor meet, placed second at the Penn Relays and third in the Nike Elite Mile in Oregon. He also took the individual title by a 10-second margin at the Nike Cross Country Regionals (15:09).
Drazba, and University's Amelia Paladino, became the first Mountain State females to qualify for the Footlocker Nationals. Drazba grabbed third place in the regional race with a time of 17:10 and later placed 22nd at the Footlocker National Championships, covering the 3.1-mile race in 18:06.
Both are expected to continue their running on the collegiate level-and the Big 12-as the University of Oklahoma is likely the landing spot for Burcham while Drazba is expected to join a long list of West Virginians who have competed for WVU.
"I've pretty much decided to run at West Virginia," said Drazba, who will major in human nutrition and foods. "There are still a lot of people around the nation that I want to compete against."