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Banner Christian’s Burke travels in the fast lane

Fred Jeter | 5/9/2024, 6 p.m.
Davian Burke specializes in takeoffs and landings and is almost always right on time. He ranks with the state’s top ...
Davian Burke, the state’s top hurdler, attends a small private school with no track.

Davian Burke specializes in takeoffs and landings and is almost always right on time. He ranks with the state’s top hurdlers even though he attends a high school – Banner Christian in Chesterfield – far removed from local sports’ neon lights.

Track is an equal opportunity sport. The stopwatch and tape measure don’t know, or care, if you attend the smallest or largest school.

This month, Burke’s time of 38.16 for the 300-meter hurdles was tops in Virginia (counting public and private) and his 14.03 for the 110 highs best in the Richmond area.

Last weekend at the Dogwood Festival at the University of Virginia, Burke was third in the 110m hurdles out of 82 entries in 14.54, and third in the 300m hurdles out of 68 in 38.36.

So why choose the somewhat dangerous hurdles, where skinned shins and tumbles are common?

“When I began running track (for East End Lightning), the coaches didn’t think I was fast enough to win the 100 or 200, so I got into the hurdles instead.

“There are less people running them (than flat sprints) and it offered a better opportunity to compete in college.”

Mission accomplished. As the 6-foot-2, 170-pound, 17-year-old nears the end of his high school career, he has already signed a scholarship offer to continue hurdling at NCAA Division I George Mason University.

The son of David and Elnetta Burke of Eastern Henrico plans to continue the 110 highs at GMU while adding the 400 intermediates in college.

Burke is on the fast track to success not only for hurdles, but academically as well. He carries about a 4.3 GPA and is in contention for Banner’s valedictorian award later this spring. He has designs of majoring in mechanical engineering.

Before enrolling at Banner, he attended Richmond Prep Charter School in Richmond’s Museum District. His decision to attend Banner was based more on academics and a Christian atmosphere than athletics.

The Courthouse Road school has just 40 or so students from ninth grade up and has no on-campus track, and not even a single hurdle.

In a sense, Burke is a one-man varsity team.

“We have some younger students who compete more on a middle school or JV level, but no one like Davian,” said Athletic Director Zach Coyle.

The less experienced runners train at Chesterfield Training Center while Burke travels to sharpen his techniques at Varina High under Coach Accaiya Evans (of The Speed Team) and Huguenot High under Coach Kyle Fuller (of Central Virginia Track Club).

“Davian isn’t the one with the most foot speed, but he is very technical and makes very few mistakes,” Coach Fuller said. “He rarely hits a hurdle.”

Banner’s nickname is the Bearcats but Burke is more realistically the Bearcat (singular) at major meets.

Competing in Division II of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA), Burke has owned the finish line.

As a junior and senior, he won the VISAA indoor 55-meter hurdles. Outdoors, he is looking to three-peat this spring as the state champ in the 110’s and 300s.

Banner’s basketball team wishes he had had time for hoops. He could dunk by the time he was 14 and starred for the Bearcats before opting for track and books.

“Davian was a beast on the basketball floor,’ Coyle said. “I can’t tell you how many times our basketball coach has asked about him coming back.”

Burke left hoops behind to concentrate on leaping over fences. No matter how crowded a track meet is, he’s easy to spot. Just look for the first to the finish line and the only one wearing a Bearcats jersey.