After he claimed the state 4A cross-country championship Saturday, Summit High School senior Liam Meirow was described by some as a dark horse or an underdog — but ask his coaches, or Meirow himself, and they’d tell you he was the favorite all along.
“We never had any other thought other than, ‘He was going to win,’” Tiger cross-country coach Heather Quarantillo said. “Every day he’s been focused on his goal.”
“You have to believe in yourself that you’re going to win,” Meirow said. “I knew if I was there with 100 meters to go no one could pass me.”
He won in thrilling fashion Saturday in Colorodo Springs, entering the final stretch of the 5K state cross-country course neck-and-neck with Broomfield’s Ethan Gonzalez. Sprinting to the finish in Norris Penrose Stadium, Meirow edged out his opponent, finishing in 16 minutes 27.1 seconds; Gonzalez crossed the line 2.5 seconds behind him.
With the win, Meirow finished his season undefeated and became Summit High School’s first state champion in cross-country.
For Meirow, it was a goal four years in the making. He explained that his success is a credit to a strong work ethic, dedication, a love of running and an “I can do anything attitude.”
“Liam works harder than anyone I’ve ever met,” Quarantillo said of his training habits. “He thinks about being a runner 365 days a year.”
Meirow describes his success simply: “Anyone can be a runner. It’s 90 percent hard work. If you keep working hard you’ll eventually get there. How well you do in the cross-country season is what you do in June, July, August.”
His coaches describe him as having a Peyton Manning-like dedication to the sport.
Quarantillo said Meirow studies his competition to find weaknesses he can incorporate in his race strategy.
“I’m a big student of the sport,” Meirow said, describing nights spent online researching everything from opponents’ results to running technique.
For the now-state champion, it started almost as happenstance in his freshman year.
“I was completely athletic, but I wasn’t focused on running,” Meirow said. “I ended up giving cross-country a try and fell in love with it.”
It didn’t take long for him to become fully engrossed in the sport.
“He was always asking questions about running,” Quarantillo said of Meirow’s freshman season. “He wanted to do everything he could. He’s truly passionate about what he does.”
He’s passionate — but he also wants to win.
“I’m extremely competitive,” Meirow said. “There’s nothing more competitive than running. I just wanted to be the best.”
After his freshman year, that meant working with a private running trainer, Lyle Knudson, on an independent regime in addition to working out with the cross-country team.
When it comes to training, “he’s taught me pretty much everything I know,” Meirow said of Knudson. He also credited his Summit coaches for teaching him racing strategy and how to relax before a race. “It’s great to have so many people helping me.”
Next up for Meirow: qualifiers for both the Nike and Footlocker cross-country nationals in November.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg for him,” Quarantillo said.
“Right now he’s one of the best in Colorado,” Knudson said. “Hopefully next spring he’ll be one of the best in the country.”
For Meirow, running has also become a way to pay for college. He said he’s looking at a number of Division I schools and may be heading to the West Coast.
But with all the success, it’s still about the fun and satisfaction in competition.
“I love that everything you put into it, you’ll get out,” he said. “If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing you’re in the wrong sport.”