* Liam Gair scored a 50.22 in his first competitive 400 meter performance on Saturday at the AAU West Coast Junior Olympic Games
Photo Credit: Cory Mull/MileSplit
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Liam Gair wasn't expecting to run a historic time in his first competitive 400 meter run on Saturday at the AAU West Coast Junior Olympic Games.
The Central Valley (CA) Christian High School rising junior was realistic.
But that's not to say the California athlete, who had bought a vintage USA jersey on Ebay in the weeks prior, wasn't aspiring for a payday at some point over the next few years, after experience and weeks and months of toiling in the sun had made improvement possible.
Maybe some day he would approach a time befitting of his dream. Maybe one day he would run a 47.
Instead, on Saturday and Sunday, logic ruled the day at the Pearson Community Center track in Las Vegas, Nevada, with Gair coming in with tempered expectations. Though at the same time, he was also hitting a critical entry point in his fast development as a sprinter.
Only shade over a year into his career as a high school track and field athlete, he was fast learning what it would take to compete beyond just the district or regional area from which he resided in Exeter, and far more the lengths he would need to go to contend with some of the country's fastest athletes.
Gair stepped to the line in the third fastest 400m heat on Saturday and ripped off a time of 50.22 seconds, a steady climb that saw him find his pace in the first 200 meters before finishing with a strong kick in the final last half of the race.
He finished third overall, behind Kansas 800m recruit AJ Green (49.96) and Colorado Class 3A state 400m champion Ian Jackson (49.88).
"I went out really strong and about halfway through it I thought to myself, my coach talked to me about inner breathing, 'Control your breathing,'" Gair said. "So I took that moment and thought to myself, 'Slow breathing.' And I started pulling ahead of him. I took off in the last stretch and I felt really good at the end."
It wasn't the sub-50 effort he was hoping for, but Gair was satisfied with the effort nonetheless. The next day, he ran a personal best time of 22.74 in the 200m, bettering a performance of 22.78 from June at the Desert Dream Last Hurrah Invitational.
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AAU West Coast Junior Olympic Games Boys 17-18 400m Results
17-18 BOYS 400 METER DASH FINALSPLACE ATHLETE TEAM RESULT WIND H# 1 Ian Jackson Alamosa High School 49.88 1 2 Aj Green Unattached - MN 49.96 1 3 Liam Gair 11 Exeter High School (CS) 50.22 1 4 Nick Pembroke Mercury Track Club 50.34 1 5 Jesse Velez No Speed Limit 50.36 1 6 Eric Quilantan 12 Harlingen High 50.49 1 7 Preston York 12 Round Rock 50.74 1 8 Dana Ridley Trenton TC 51.31 1
Obviously, Gair's production will have to improve if he is to turn into a potential state-qualifier at the California Interscholastic Federation level, though the signs are there.
With his 50.22 performance in the 400m, he ranks No. 24 over California's abbreviated season. His 200m time put him in the top 50 in the state, too. All three of his performances in the 100m, 200m and 400m would also have led Central Valley's top performances of 2019, too.
To Gair, however, these efforts were all lessons for a future date.
"It was my first 400, so I was pretty nervous," he said. "It was my first time, you know. I wasn't sure how I was going to do, so I took it as a learning curve for me."
Importantly, through all of this, Gair realized some of his goals by continuing his season through quarantine and training through uncertainty.
"Track is one of my passions, so I didn't want to just end it with the season, knowing I was barely able to reach any of my goals for the coming season," he said. "So I went out, I found a couple meets. I was excited to compete in them, knowing I could prolong my season into the summer."