Liam Conway considers himself quite capable of running the three longest races in a high-school track meet.
At the same time, he’s just as comfortable focusing solely on any one given race.
Conway did both this spring, going on a medal run that contributed mightily to the Owen J. Roberts junior being accorded The Mercury’s Athlete of the Year honors in boys track.
Conway’s versatility was amply demonstrated at the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s championship meet, where he won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter races. But off that veritable “gold rush,” Conway decided his pursuit of additional medals at the district and state levels would go through the 1,600 event.
“The big thing is, I’m capable of doing all three,” he said. “I think I knew from the beginning if I was going to run one, I wanted to do the 1,600.”
Conway’s comfort zone with that distance race has its foundation in cross country, where he was a PAC champion and top-10 district placer this past fall. It was further firmed up during the recent indoor track season, when he was a silver medalist in the mile event of the PIAA championship meet.
Yet he also had strong impetus for doing the distance-race trifecta; namely, fueling the OJR boys’ bid to win team championships during the post-season.
“I knew I was capable of pulling off all three (wins),” he said. “And I knew the (30) team points would be huge.”
Conway’s PAC hat trick started on the meet’s first day, when he took the 3,200 in a time of 9:37.41. He came back on Day Two to head the 1,600 in 4:13.45, then finished up with a winning time of 1:53.74 in the 800.
At the District 1-AAA meet, however, summer-like temperatures and weather conditions impacted Conway’s decision to run only the 1,600. The decision was validated by his second-place (4;16.89) effort, less than a half-second behind race-winning Central Bucks South’s Matthew Scarpill’s 4:16.45.
“Friday was very hot,” he recalled, “and there was the issue of time recovering from qualifying races. In the end, I would be focusing on one event, and I was in shape for the mile.”
The return trip to Shippensburg University for states afforded Conway the chance to improve on his 10th-place showing the previous year. He took advantage of the opportunity, coming third in a personal-best time of 4:13 behind the Carlisle duo of Isaac Kole (first, 4:12.47) and Sam Affolder (second, 4;12.93).
“I wanted to make a good run at states,” Conway said. “That’s why I was happy at states. I knew there would be the same competition as last year.”
Conway came into the spring planning to focus on the 1,600 and 800.
“My training was based around the 1,600,” he said. “I did 800 and 3,200 workouts, but most of my prep was for the 1,600.
“In the PACs, I took each one individually. With the 1,600 and 800, there’s only so much time to recover and regroup.”
In addition to the 3,200, he also competed with the team’s 4×800 relay one time.
“I wanted us to do what we could to get guys to districts,” he said of his 4×8 action. “It was the team aspect … coming together.”
The plan to run three events was a collaborative decision between Conway and head coach Tim Marcoe
“We came together on the idea,” Marcoe said.
His success in the winter and spring effectively answered an inauspicious end to Conway’s cross country season. After winning the PAC meet and scoring a Top 10 finish in the District 1-AAA meet, he finished far back in the PIAA Class AAA race with an injury to his left sartorius muscle (runs down length of thigh).
“After cross country season, I underwent physical therapy and took a couple weeks off,” he recalled. “It (PT) showed me I was doing maintenance things wrong. It was a lesson.
“Off that, I eased into the winter season. I think it was successful.”
A strong finishing kick — a product of his distance-running experiences — was key to Conway’s successes this spring. Even when he found himself in the middle of the pack in the early laps of a race, Liam routinely worked his way toward the front to be within reach of the win.
“My main goal at PACs was to sit back in the pack and kick at the end,” he said. “I’d go into my kick with 300 yards to go in most races.”
Liam’s plan for the summer is to “get mileage for next cross country season.” He will also prepare mentally for the expected upsurge of interest from college programs during his senior year.
“It will get more serious next year,” he said. “I’ll see who comes right now. As a runner, I think I’m versatile.”