Liam Anderson knew something was up when he crossed the line at the 2015 North Coast Section Championships. There was only one other finisher with him–and that was his Larkspur Redwood teammate Andy Ehrenberg. Somewhere during his kick to the finish, the then-freshman had moved his way into second, running 70 seconds faster than he had 10 days before. As he walked through the chute, his path to winning the 2019 Gatorade National Runner of the Year Award had begun.
“It went to show me what was possible, in running," Anderson said. "Until that point I had not set any lofty goals, for the long-term, and I had no idea where running might take me.”
On Wednesday morning, Gatorade recognized Anderson for what he's accomplished during his high school cross-country career. Anderson's coach told him to meet in the cafeteria with his teammates, where he was surprised with the Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year Award.
"This award is the culmination of four years of work," Anderson said Wednesday.
Anderson won the Division III state title in 2017 and 2018 and was California's Gatorade Athlete of the Year both times. His exploits on the national stage, however, made him a California legend. The state is famous for its wealth of running talent and has its own Nike Cross Regionals race, but no California runner had ever won the individual title at Nike Cross Nationals before 2018.
Anderson came close in 2017, finishing third behind last year's Gatorade Athlete of the Year, Aidan Troutner. After that result, he set a goal to win the prestigious race next year and achieved it in style when he set a course record of 14:57.6. Anderson's time marked the first 5K run in under 15 minutes at Glendoveer Golf Course.
At 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds, Anderson is not the most physically imposing runner in the field, but his exceptional effort and strong finishes set him apart. At NXN, he impressively held off Southwest Champion Cole Sprout and Foot Locker Champion Cole Hocker at the finish, which was no easy feat.
In October, Anderson committed to run at Stanford under head coach Chris Miltenberg.
“For a long time, I’ve looked at Stanford as the ultimate in terms of academics and their athletics," Anderson said. "After going through the recruiting process, [Stanford] really reaffirmed that.”
Before he joins the Cardinal, Anderson still has a season of outdoor track to complete. He has not raced since Nike Cross Nationals, but is excited to compete once spring track rolls around. Many high school runners have an extended indoor season–Katelyn Tuohy, his counterpart on the girls’ side, has raced indoors both professionally and for her high school this winter–but Anderson is going the typical California route and taking it easy before spring.
“Sure these guys are getting more races and fast times in," he said. "But I’m happy to work hard without spending a lot of time and energy racing.”
Anderson excels off the course as well, holding a 4.26 GPA and volunteering with the Marin County Search and Rescue Team as a certified Wilderness First Responder. He is on call 24/7 to locate missing and injured individuals.
On that sunny Saturday in 2015, Anderson could not have known how far running would take him, but the idea and vision of what was possible had taken shape. For the reigning NXN champion and future Stanford runner, the Gatorade Athlete of the Year Award is another step along that path.