Vol. LXI, No. 24
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
Libby Bliss was looking for some redemption as she toed the starting line for the 800-meter run last Wednesday at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
After turning heads last spring when she won the Group III title in the 800, the Princeton High senior star was disappointed to finish fourth in this year's group final.
"I haven't had a picturesque senior season culminating in a fantastic race," said Bliss. "I wanted to improve on my junior year; I wanted to prove that I'm not in a senior slump."
While Bliss may not have produced a spectacular effort, she was pleased with taking sixth and earning a medal in the meet held at South Plainfield.
"I showed that if I wanted something and I prepare mentally and physically, I can do it," said Bliss, who clocked a time of 2:13.95, some two seconds off of her personal best.
"It was an exciting and emotional race; it was my last high school meet in New Jersey against the competitors I'm used to running against."
A spirited group of PHS teammates was on hand at the MOC to cheer on Bliss and junior Megan Wiseman, who took sixth in the long jump.
The support Bliss received certainly impacted her performance. "I was really excited," said Bliss, who will close out her high school career this weekend in the Nike Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C. before going on to compete at the college level at Princeton University.
"My teammates and coach had a big part of it with their support. At times, I wanted to call it quits and just look ahead to college. The sophomores and juniors were so passionate about the sport and that helped me."
While Bliss did win the county and sectional titles in the 800 this spring, she has not met her own expectations for the season. "I did better in cross country last fall and I was physically stronger coming into this season," said Bliss. "I expected higher things."
But dealing with some bumps in the road has steeled Bliss for future challenges. "I learned a lot about myself," asserted Bliss. "It's easy to be the underclassman and the underdog and just prepare and work hard. It takes a much bigger person to go out there and bounce back from disappointment."
Bliss is prepared to go out with a blaze of glory in the Nike meet. "I really hope so," said Bliss, referring to ending things on a high note at the prestigious meet. "I'm getting stronger as the season goes on. If I don't get there, I've learned a lot about myself."
Working with PHS head coach James Smirk has helped Bliss in that learning process. "I have a really close relationship with Coach Smirk; he's a year younger than my older brother," said Bliss.
"He's a coach, a friend and we have almost a brother-sister relationship. It is really important to me to have a coach who I am comfortable with talking about training or academic or social things."
One of the factors that led Bliss to Princeton University was the comfort level she feels with Tiger women's track head coach Peter Farrell and the members of the track team.
"I know Coach Farrell's daughter and I see him around a lot," said Bliss. "I feel comfortable talking to him. I'm really excited about training with the girls; they could not have been nicer to me.
Watching the Tigers in action this spring has given Bliss some inspiration as she looks ahead to running at the next level. "I went to the Heps and the ECAC this spring," said Bliss, who plans to compete on the indoor and outdoor teams and train with the cross country team.
"I saw some incredible performances from the Princeton runners and across the board. It makes me excited to run in college."
And Bliss will bring a broader perspective to the table as she competes across town. "Over the past four years, I've accepted the idea of being a leader," said Bliss.
"As a freshman and a sophomore, I was more of a follower. I know that the team relies on me to score points and to set an example. Even if I'm scared or intimidated, I can't show it. You have to put any personal problems aside and go out on the track and just run for your life."
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