Hours of hard work reward record-breaking runner

Nickie Morris, Staff Writer

Junior sprinter Justin Liechty broke the 400-meter school record for the third time this season at the America East Championships.

The meet took place Feb. 23-24 in Boston.

The men’s team finished seventh overall in the meet, while the men’s 4×400 relay team, also led by Liechty, broke another school record.

Liechty’s 48.31-second run was good for fourth in the event. He previously broke the record Feb. 3 at the New England championships in Roxbury, Massachusetts, according to UVM athletics.

The relay team finished with a time of 3:15.52, and would re-break the record a week later at the ECAC/IC4A Championships with a time of 3:15.41, according to UVM athletics.

While Liechty runs in other events, such as the 200, assistant coach Kasey Hill said he was more focused on the 400, and was trained to get the best outcome in that race.

This record comes after a stress fracture took away much of his indoor track season last year.

“Coming back from injury, I wanted to do something special,” Liechty said. “The record was always a goal of mine after coming really close my first year.”

Liechty excels in the classroom, too. As a first-year in 2016, he was named on the America East Academic Honor Roll, according to UVM athletics.

With outdoor track starting shortly after break, head coach Matt Belfield emphasized a three-season focus on track training.

“Records in winter and spring are set up by fall fitness levels, and dynamic rest in between while still gaining aerobic strength,” Belfield said. “Training year-round like this allows the body to get back up to peak with five or six weeks of preparation.”

The 4×400 relay team broke their record in the final race of the meet, according to UVM athletics.

“There were four guys on that team with at least three more possible runners who could have ran for them,” Hill said. “The depth we have there gives us a good possibility to break the outdoor record as well.”

Breaking a record in the indoor season differs from one broken in the outdoor season.

“Typically in track, you see better times outdoors as it’s a little easier to race outside. For them to beat the outdoor time indoors is huge for us,” Hill said.

Liechty believes his numerous record-breaking times this season came directly from tougher training, he said.

“We definitely did some harder workouts this year than in the past, and hard workouts pay off so you feel stronger in races. I just kept thinking, ‘if I can survive a workout, I can run a 400,’” Liechty said.

The team’s health is a high priority this spring over immediate record breaking.

“Having a high percent of health in the spring season is a challenge, as it’s a tough transitional period with spring break and the break between seasons,” Belfield said.

But the record-breaking performances do not go unnoticed.

“People in very different events appreciating other records is good for the whole team, especially when it’s an enthusiastic leader of the team like Justin,” Belfield said.