By DAN ARRITT     9/8/2015

Andrew Burkhardt didn’t just shave a few seconds off his personal-best times last season. He took a chisel, hacksaw and ultimately an axe to those oh-so-important numbers.

Now, he’s sharpening his edges in preparation for his senior year at JSerra, where he’s not only looking to maintain his position as the top boys’ cross-country runner in the Trinity League, but also to help the Lions wrestle the team title from St. John Bosco, which has won 21 straight league championships.

“I feel pretty confident of that,” he says.

Burkhardt is also aiming to improve on his fifth-place finish at the Division IV state finals last November in Fresno, which was a dramatic upgrade from the year before. He circled the hilly 5,000-meter course at Woodward Park in 15 minutes 39 seconds, a year after finishing the same race in 16:49, which placed him 56th overall.

“It was only my second time running the course last year at state, so I still wasn’t too familiar with it,” he says. “Now, I know it just that much better.”

Burkhardt doesn’t believe he can carve another 1:10 off his time this season, but a sub-15-minute performance at the state finals is certainly within reach.

“Last year, I kind of died,” he says. “I was in second place going into the third mile and then I let a few people pass me.”

Burkhardt and his teammates have bumped up their training in the last month to about 80 miles a week and he’s been focusing on staying strong at the end of his workouts, hoping that will pay off at the end of races.

He’ll get his first test Saturday at the season-opening Cool Breeze Evening Invitational at El Prado Golf Course in Chino. The race is expected to include fellow Orange County Register all-county returners Austin Tamagno of Brea Olinda and Mason Coppi and Jake Ogden of Dana Hills.

“It should be a pretty fast race,” Burkhardt says.

Burkhardt’s rise last season began long before the state finals.

He showed he’d be a force from the gate, winning the Division III race at the season-opening Laguna Hills Invitational in 15:21, the best time among Orange County runners, the second-fastest overall and nearly a minute better than what he posted the year before.

He won the Trinity League cluster meet in October, the league finals in November and placed fifth at the CIF-SS Division IV finals at Mount San Antonio College just before Thanksgiving. Each time, he improved his mark from the season before by nearly a minute or more.

His performance at Woodward Park was a steep improvement over the year before, but still not up to par for Burkhardt.

“I just didn’t feel like I had that good of a race,” he says.

The spring track and field season had its share of ups and downs as well.

Burkhardt won a CIF-SS Division III title in the 3,200 meters, finishing the eight-lap race in a personal-best 9:05.94. He was unable to duplicate that effort the following week at the Masters Meet, however, finishing in 9:07.92, barely missing the state qualifying mark of 9:07.38.

“I was pretty disappointed in that, but it was a pretty good season overall,” he says. “I brought my two-mile time down about 30 seconds and my mile time down about 25 seconds.”

He certainly didn’t let go of that edge over the summer.