Two years ago as a sophomore Liam Meirow sat in the stands at the Colorado State Track and Field Championships, having just missed the cut to qualify in his events. He turned to his private coach, Lyle Knudson, and said, “I’m going to win this in two years.”
For the kid who just a few years earlier had wanted to become a professional skater and snowboarder, it might have seemed an ambitious statement.
A statement his own coach — a former Division I college coach with seven Olympians to his credit — might even have doubted.
“His freshman year he was not very good at all,” Knudson said. But Meirow bought into what became a year-round training program under Knudson’s instruction, a program that would eventually lead to missing his junior year of track at Summit High School in order to train and compete independently.
“That decision changed my life,” Meirow said of connecting with Knudson after his freshman year. As for missing a year competing at Summit he said, “I knew it would be best for me to sacrifice going to state so I could train on my own.”
While he was able to continue to compete with the Summit cross-country team in the fall, Meirow raced independently in track his junior year — at times matching up against college- age competition in open meets.
“It was definitely hard,” he said of being unable to compete with his high school classmates, “but I know it was the right decision.”
Meirow was able to rejoin the Summit track team for his senior season, and earlier this month that decision and two years of training paid off. Meirow claimed the 4A state title in the 1,600-meter run, living up to the goal he’d set two years earlier. Combined with the state championship in cross country he’d earned last fall, Meirow graduated Saturday as a two-sport state champion with Summit school records in the 800, 1,600, 3,200, 4x4 relay and in cross country.
“It definitely puts a smile on my face to say I did everything I could in high school,” he said shortly after Saturday’s graduation. “After winning cross country and track I know I’ve made my mark in the history of Colorado running and Summit High School, and I’m really proud of that.”
It’s a mark he’ll no doubt also leave with his high school coaches as well. Earlier in the year Meirow’s cross-country coach, Heather Quarantillo, told the Daily, “Liam works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. He thinks about being a runner 365 days a year.”
But more than that, Quarantillo said Meirow took on a leadership roll with the team.
“He’s the strongest mentor I’ve ever had on our team.”
Head track coach Kristy McClain echoed the sentiment. “He’s been an excellent role model. I think he’ll be a great coach some day. He’s a student of the sport of running.”
The sense of competition and that team camaraderie are part of what attracted Meirow to the sport as a freshman.
“The running scene, for me, it fit more,” he said looking back on his decision to focus on running instead of other team sports. “I got my first passion for the sport after that cross-country season.”
With that passion came possibility.
“When I fell in love with running, I decided running was going to get me to college,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t get into college with skateboarding or snowboarding.”
That goal also came to fruition earlier this year when he accepted a scholarship to Division I University of Oklahoma, where he will start this fall. While initially he never imagined he’d end up going to school in a place like Oklahoma, he said he was immediately impressed by the coach and appreciated his coaching philosophy. And after phone conversations with around 20 other schools and a handful of visits, Oklahoma simply stood out.
“Oklahoma was the first Division I school to contact me. They were the first that I took an official visit to,” he said, adding that after the visit, “I could see myself there in the future.”
As for Meirow’s future, Knudson said he has “tremendous potential.”
“He certainly has the physical and mental capacity to become a great runner.”
Maybe even Olympic caliber, he added, with the right training.
Meirow said that while he’s sad to see his high school career come to an end, he’s excited about the future.
McClain expressed a similar feeling.
“We’re definitely going to miss him next year. Oklahoma is going to get a valuable teammate,” she said. “I’m excited to see what the future holds for him.”