It all started for Liam Christensen three years ago during tryouts for the Mount Pleasant Track Club.
"I saw a guy throwing a spear around," Liam said. "Like anybody, I thought 'that's cool' and I immediately became intrigued by this stick throwing. It took off from there."
Today, Liam, 15 and a rising sophomore at Academic Magnet High School, is a national champion in the javelin throw, having won the 15-16 boys title on his final throw, heaving the eight-foot spear 57.81 meters or 189 feet, 8 inches at the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships last week in Humble, Texas.
In doing so, Liam fulfilled a promise he made a year earlier to Mount Pleasant Track Club coach Tami Dennis after finishing third at the nationals. Liam knew Dennis wanted the 12-year-old team to eventually produce a national champion and before the season he told her: "I will be your first national champion."
"Liam actually went into Nationals ranked No. 1 in the country," Dennis said.
"For a 16-year-old, that can go one way or another. The pressure of that could cripple you or give you a lot of confidence. It gave Liam the confidence to go win Nationals."
Liam was the first winner of the club's Peyton Moore Award (named for the 9-year-old member of the Mount Pleasant Track Club who died last summer).
He has a favorite javelin, one he painted green and black, the same as Peyton's javelin. As a tribute to his young friend, Liam put Peyton's name on the javelin.
"That gives you a great idea of the kind of character he has. He's a great kid and works with all our young athletes," Dennis said. "From last year's Nationals, he has been on a mission. Practicing in the offseason, all winter long, conditioning and throwing and preparing."
Liam gives a lot of credit to his javelin coach, Michael Flournoy.
The South Carolina High School League, like most states, does not include the javelin throw in its track and field competitions, but Liam still has plenty of goals.
"My main goal next year is to win the national championship again for the next age group, 17-18," he said. "Worlds happen every other year and I'm planning to go to Worlds in 2016. From there, the Olympic standard is pretty close to the Worlds qualification standard, so maybe that, too."
"Our team has been in existence for 12 years. Ten to 12 years ago we were just happy to be at nationals," Dennis said.
"Now we go with the goal to be All-American or finish in the top 16. We set very specific goals. The majority of our kids did very well."
8-under: Nick Welborn, javelin, 12th; Alison Kirsling, shot put, 26th.
9-10: Ginger Arnold, javelin, 25th; Ally Dominiak, shot put, 30th.
11-12: Ethan Cocco, shot put, 29th and discus, 23rd; Georgia Arnold, javelin, 15th; Dylan Bouchelle, javelin, 29th and 3000-meter, 31st; Ziaire Coker, long jump, 23rd; Jessica Rumrill, high jump, 16th; Chloe Berda, 1500-meter, 43rd.
13-14: Colton Green, pole vault, 12th; Chandler Robinson, 100 hurdles, 24th; Elijah Bull, 100-meter hurdles, 36th and high jump, 23rd; Haley Baker, triple jump, 28th and high jump, 18th; Luke Pauldine, javelin, 16th; Jaxen Salam, javelin, 34th; Zeniyah Lawrence, long jump, 13th; Colin Baker, 3000-meter, 14th.
15-16: Jacob Wilkins, hammer, 14th; Kristin Fairey, 800-meter, 23rd; 1500-meter, 12th; Caleb Anderson, high jump, 31st; Eileen Stribling, discus, 27th; Madison Salam, high jump, 19th; Maggie Henderson, javelin, 10th; Raena Burns, javelin, 25th.
17-18: Jonathan Ray, shot put, 32nd; Kendall Mercer, pole vault, 32nd; Adele Blalock, pole vault, 35th; Callie McLean, javelin, 37th.
In addition to Liam, six other Mount Pleasant Track Club athletes earned All-America status (finishing in the top eight).
Omega Smalls, competing in 17-18, finished third in the high jump;
Jayla Grant finished third in 11-12 shot put;
Zeniyah Lawrence was fourth in the 13-14 100-meter dash;
Troy Cocco finished sixth in the 9-10 javelin;
Ethan Cocco finished seventh in 11-12 javelin; and
Chloe Berda was eighth in the 11-12 javelin.
The 317-member club won the state meet for the 10th year in a row, finishing more than 1,000 points ahead of the next team.
Forty-seven MPTC athletes won state championship; 44 qualified for nationals; and 33 participated in nationals.