Weddington senior Chenyenne Burnam is inspired by family and cultural history
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Tuesday, Apr. 08, 2014

Weddington senior Chenyenne Burnam is inspired by family and cultural history

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/04/12/41/Yd5ps.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - COURTESY OF MARK BURNAM
    Weddington’s Cheyenne Burnam, left, had 70 goals and 19 assists last year as an all-state junior.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/04/12/41/2qF6K.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - COURTESY OF MARK BURNAM
    Weddington’s Cheyenne Burnam, left, had 70 goals and 19 assists last year as an all-state junior.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/04/12/41/WOI6s.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - COURTESY OF MARK BURNAM
    Weddington’s Cheyenne Burnam (23) has scored 33 goals and tallied 11 assists through seven games this season. She is signed to play at Syracuse next season.

For Cheyenne Burnam, lacrosse has always been more than just a game.

Burnam, 17, has had a stick in her hand nearly every day since she was 4 years old.

She discovered her passion for the game growing up on the Onondaga and Tuscarora reservations in New York.

Lacrosse, originally played by Native Americans, came naturally to Cheyenne because of her family’s love of the game.

Her father, Mark, was a star player at Syracuse from 1981-84, including on the 1983 national championship team. He also played professionally for the Buffalo Bandits and Rochester Knighthawks.

Her oldest brother, Hugh, 28, still plays for Syracuse’s club team while pursuing his doctorate, while brothers Tyler , 21, and Brad , 20, were stars at Weddington before their college careers. Tyler is transferring to Syracuse and Brad is at Richmond.

“I was pretty much born with a (lacrosse) stick in my hand,” said Cheyenne Burnam, who learned to play with a boys’ stick. “Being Native American and growing up on the reservations made lacrosse a huge part of my life. I’ve always been inspired to ‘Play for the pleasure of the Creator.’

“My father and brothers have also been a big part of my passion for the game and development as a player. I’ve always had a name to live up to. All of that really motivates me to continue to work to get better.”

Mark Burnam said he has enjoyed watching his daughter find her game.

“When you’re around a family that eats, sleeps and breathes lacrosse, I think it would be hard not to love it,” said Mark Burnam, a former Weddington High boys’ head lacrosse coach now in the same role at Charlotte Christian. “But while Cheyenne has always had access to a lot of great lacrosse advice and experience, she knows she has to work hard at her own game. She knows no one is going to give her anything just because of her last name.”

Burnam has been playing lacrosse in club and little leagues since she was 8. Like her brothers, she established herself as a standout for the Weddington High team as a freshman, scoring 38 goals and dishing out 11 assists to earn all-conference honors. Burnam scored six goals in her first high school game in a 15-14 win against Charlotte Latin.

The youngest Burnam has gotten better every season as a Warrior, scoring 46 goals with 22 assists as an all-conference sophomore, then 70 goals and 19 assists last year as an all-state junior.

The highlight of her junior year was committing to the Syracuse lacrosse team. Burnam committed to the Orange in November 2012 and signed this February.

“It’s hard to even put into words what going to play at Syracuse means to me,” Burnam said. “Syracuse has always been my dream school, and to have so much family (in the area) makes it all even better. I don’t even know how I’m going to feel when I run out onto the field in the Carrier Dome for the first time. I know it’s going to be a special feeling.”

Burnam said her accomplishments have motivated her to work harder. She already has 34 goals and 11 assists through seven games this season for Weddington (4-3 through April 2) . She netted 10 goals in a season-opening 20-12 win against Hough and had eight goals and four assists in a recent win againts Providence High.

While Burnam had made her reputation from the attacker position – where she most likely will play at Syracuse – she has moved into the midfield this season, the spot where she can best help her Weddington team.

“Cheyenne has really stepped up her game for us this year and played (at) a very high level” Weddington girls’ lacrosse coach Marty Wynne said.

Mark Burnam says he also has enjoyed watching his daughter’s game evolve.

“When you have a lot of success, every year you will be more recognized and get more defensive pressure on you, and it’s only going to harder,” Mark Burnam said. “While she has always been known for her scoring, she is looking to set up her teammates more now and also be more of a leader.”

After barely missing the playoffs the past two seasons, Burnam says, her team’s main goal is to make the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A/2A/3A playoffs.

The Warriors have a wealth of talent to go with Burnam, including senior co-captains Madison Grover and Melanie Wierzbicki, junior Hannah Schrader and sophomore Samantha Wierzbicki.

Burnam said she hopes to add another big accomplishment to her lacrosse resume this spring and summer, as she is in the midst of trying out for the U19 Iroquois National team, which has a training camp this month and two more tryouts in July.

Burnam also is looking forward to watching her father help coach the Iroquois National men’s team as defensive coordinator at the World Lacrosse Championships on July 10-19 in Denver.

Shortly after, Cheyenne’s college lacrosse career will begin. She says she will continue to have the same focus.

“I don’t worry about my accomplishments or awards or anything like that,” Burnam said. “I just go out and give everything I have every time I step on the field.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at jedwardsjr23@gmail.com.

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