Doddridge County Burnside’s honor obvious

Photo by Jay W. Bennett West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission assistant executive director Wayne Ryan, left, and executive director Bernie Dolan, right, present Doddridge County head track coach Bobby Burnside with the 2016-17 NFHS West Virginia track and field coach of the year award last month at Laidley Field.

Allegiances as a sports journalist don’t last long once you secure a job. Some writers may begin their career with preferences, but this shouldn’t last long. Staying focused on one team, especially when coverage can span across a large area like the Mid-Ohio Valley, leaves one uneducated when, inevitably, other sports must be covered across multiple seasons.

Now having said all this doesn’t mean a writer erases all memories experienced with a particular organization or school. This would be foolish as the past sometimes features prominently in the future.

I certainly don’t wash away any warm thoughts or even some of the cold ones. Those moments are the reasons I have dedicated my life to sports coverage. Seeing the smiles and celebrations, the overcoming of failures, or the rise of individuals or teams is always uplifting as a source of inspiration.

Coincidentally, this column will be centered around past grins and jubilations … Namely those of the Doddridge County boys’ track and field team.

Ask any writer about their first published story and I bet they remember it well.

The Bulldogs were prepping for a third straight state title as the annual preview quickly approached deadline for 2014 spring sports. My editor, Dave Poe, assigned me the West Union trip to meet DC head boys coach Bobby Burnside. As Eminem wrote in ‘Lose Yourself’ my palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy as this was my first ‘official’ piece to appear in print for the News and Sentinel.

Thankfully, I had done my research ahead of time and the interviews and stories went well.

Expectations were high for the ‘Dawgs, which they met two-and-a-half months later with another championship. Two more followed and I wondered where the coaching awards were for the Bulldogs’ head man.

For Doddridge County, a small school, to dominate Class A track and field, this meant in-school recruiting, talent measurement, and performances had to be spot on to utilize everyone out for the team.

The West Virginia Coaches Association awarded him one recognition, but this wasn’t enough in my opinion.

Regardless of how rough things looked at the beginning of any season, somehow, some way Burnside and his staff always had their kids ready when it mattered most for those all-important two days at Laidley Field in May. There was no pressure to be at your top self early.

Green and gold thinclads instead focused on constant daily improvements with regular season meets used as progress markers.

Dynastic perfectly described those results.

The last eight years have produced five championships (2011-15) and three third-place finishes (2016-18) with a roster somewhere around 30 kids. Not to mention Bulldog athletes Daniel Plaugher, Hunter Riffle, Trey Heaster, Caleb Moore among numerous others can be found on college rosters throughout the area.

The National Federation of State High Schools finally found the Bulldogs’ accomplishments too much to overlook.

The Federation named Burnside the 2016-2017 NFHS Coaches Association Coach of the Year during this year’s state tournament.

“It is a big honor,” said Burnside. “I think a lot of it has to do with the people I am surrounded with in some very, very great coaches. Plus, you have the rich tradition of track and field at Doddridge County.”

Overdue was the word on my tongue, but then you think of all the great coaches and teams in West Virginia, from Morgantown and University in AAA and Bridgeport and Winfield in AA, then St. Marys and Williamstown too in Class A, it is a wonder the award was still unclaimed after examinations of the first two classes.

Burnside, however, paid no attention to any of this talk. Instead, the former Glenville State pole vaulter, just continued to churn out great teams.

“You don’t even think about these awards,” said Burnside. “You just work towards doing the best you can as a team. Obviously, we have been blessed with some wonderful athletes during my time … and I have wonderful colleagues here too.”

Don’t expect the Bulldog coach to dwell on the honor too long though. While he appreciates the recognition, he is already focused on how to bring title six of the Burnside era home to Doddridge County next season.

Contact Joe Albright at