Oak Glen senior Alexis Burch looks to return to podium as a state champ

“Trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself. In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” – Proverbs 3:5

Oak Glen senior Alexis Burch has been a fixture as the West Virginia State Track and Field Championships in Charleston since being in eighth grade.

That’s when her life changed.

She was in the stands in 2009 watching older brother Derek win the 400 at the state meet as a junior.

“That was amazing,” she recalled. “After I saw that I said “Wow, I have to try this.’ Our family was so excited about it. I said ‘I want to do that.’

“He helps me through everything. Everything I have learned about the 400 is from him. My brother gave me the inspiration to do this.”

She has admittedly come a long way in the track circles since her first taste of the sport.

“I tried it out in the second grade and I hated it,” she said with a smile. “I lost every race. I was so mad. It’s crazy to think how this has happened.”

Two years after watching her brother claim a state title in the 400, she did the same thing, running 58.31 as a sophomore.

“My family has helped me a lot. We’re just a track family,” she said.

Burch had a brilliant sophomore year, claiming three state championships.

Along with the 400, she teamed with Paige Smearman, Megan Collins and Amy Webster to win the 4×200 and Collins, Webster and Kelsey Chambers to capture the 4×400.

Burch also finished second in the 100, but her 12.59 in the prelims broke the school record of her aunt, Kim Everly.

“It was a surprise in the fact that I was only a sophomore,” she said of claiming three state titles. “But, I put so much hard work into it that I wasn’t as shocked as I would be if I didn’t work as hard. I didn’t know what that hard work would bring. I had hoped it would help me perform well, but I never imagined it would be three state titles my sophomore year.”

Last year, though, was not good.

Oak Glen was without a track because of the construction of the on-campus facility.

Burch was really never healthy, with the low point of the season probably being the Brooke Relays.

“I hated that I couldn’t run,” she said. “I want to run every race. I want to run with my teammates. I love running with my teammates. But, sometimes things happen and you have to learn to get over it and get stronger and better.”

Still, that didn’t change her expectations when it came to Charleston.

“With the track, I would have expected to do about the same,” Burch said. “But, the fact that we didn’t have a track, it really put everything back – work routine and everything that goes along with that. It was hard to do relay handoffs. We couldn’t do block work. A lot of us got injuries from not being on a track and being on pavement. It was hard on everyone on both teams.

“We only went to a track once a week, whether it was (East) Liverpool or Brooke, or somewhere else. It was frustrating.

“My expectations were the same as any other year – to do the best that I could. I knew that I may not have been able to do as well as the year before because of no track and the injuries I had, but I wasn’t going to let myself down.

“I wanted to go in and say, ‘I can do this. Don’t let anything interfere. Just concentrate on the task at hand.’

“I felt I could have done better. I felt I wasn’t in the shape I had been before. But, considering what we went though, I think we did well.”

Burch finished second last year at the state meet in the 400 (58.12), third in the 100 (12.84) and 200 (26.21) and partnered with Collins, Smearman and Webster to take fourth in the 4×200 (1:49.91).

One year after watching big brother win a state title, Burch finished third in the 400 (59.82) and was a member of the 4×100 and 4×400 relays that finished fourth and 4×200 relay that took fifth.

The lack of a home track will not be a problem this year.

“We will have a track,” said Oak Glen Athletic Director Phil Rujak. “Our kids will have a place to run. There has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make sure they don’t have to go through what they went through last year.”

Burch plans on running track in college and, in that light, she made a decision not to play basketball this season.

“It wasn’t a hard decision, but it wasn’t an easy decision,” she said. “It had nothing to do with the coaches or the players. I love them all. It’s the fact that I want to win again this year. That’s really important to me. I want to do well.

“Not playing basketball will help me get further in track this year. I miss being with everyone. Basketball is a team sport. We’re all family and we all get along. I miss some aspects of it – the games and the defensive aspect of it, getting on people’s nerves trying to get the ball off them.

“At the same time, I am happy I am not playing because everything I am doing now in place of basketball will really prepare me for my last track season.

“I’ve lifted throughout the winter and it has really helped me. We’ve been conditioning and those are the things I feel have gotten me a lot stronger at this point before the season than in previous years. It’s this type of preparation that I feel will definitely help me.”

Burch said she was also reminded last year that during any time, especially a tough season, there is someone to lean on.

“You have to do all things through God,” she said. “You can’t trust yourself to do things alone. God gives you the strength to do all that you can do.

“If he gives you, for me, the ability to run, he’s not just going to make you the best. You have to work hard and do all the things that you can do.

“You can do all things through him.”

Although it is not certain yet what events Burch will run, the early favorites are the 100, 200, 400 and 4×400.

“The 400 is my favorite race,” said Burch, whose 58.12 is the ninth-fastest Class AA/A time in state meet history. “My expectations are a lot higher this year. I am hoping to break some records.”

The ultimate goal, though, is success in Charleston.

“If I get second, I get second,” she said. “I’m not going to be upset with myself if that’s what happens. I know I will have done everything I could to lead up to that point.”

Along with winning state titles and running with her teammates, Burch is also looking forward not having one strip of tape placed on her body.

“I am praying nothing happens this year,” she said with a laugh.