Wallace named Times News/LVHN Girls Track Player of the Year
Frank Miller came to Lydia Wallace with an idea.
Let’s try something new.
Wallace hit the ground running as a freshman at Jim Thorpe. She turned heads with record-setting performances in the 400 and 800, qualifying for states in both events, and became a key member of the Olympians’ state-qualifying 400-meter relay squad.
What could she do for an encore?
Miller wanted to find out.
“So we were just talking — the meet was on a Wednesday — and I said to her, ‘Hey, you’ve gone over hurdles indoors. Just for fun, to try it out, how about we run the 300s?’” the Jim Thorpe mentor recalled.
“And she said, ‘Sure, not a problem.’”
Wallace’s response on that April day earlier this season against Tamaqua was a performance that ultimately shaped the rest of her season.
“The first time I ran it, I saw my time, and everyone said it was a really good time,” said Wallace. “So I went back, and I looked in my book from districts last year, and all the seeds, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I could do this, and I could win districts, and I could break another school record, and hopefully do well at states.’”
Wallace peaked when it mattered most, capturing her first state medal with a sixth-place finish in the Class 2A 300 hurdles in 46.63 at the PIAA Track and Field Championships and earning Times News/Lehigh Valley Health Network Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year honors.
That she excelled in an event other than what she had been accustomed to was no surprise to Miller.
“We did about 10 minutes of short hurdle work for her, and just told her to go out and run it and see how it feels,” Miller said. “Then she runs the time that she runs (at Tamaqua), and we’re like, ‘Hey we have something here.’
“So the rest of the season became management for us, which was nice for her, too, because it broke up the monotony of that 400-800 over and over and over again, and allowed us to get some speed work in with her — more speed work — than what we were able to generally get in in preparation for the 800 as well. And it’s something that we knew she could do. She’s a phenomenal, versatile athlete.”
And as the season progressed, Wallace continued to adapt.
“I definitely focused more on my distance work this year,” she said. “My freshman year, everything was more kind of speed-based, and obviously it didn’t really do much for the 800, which I wasn’t really happy about the times I put out this season for that event. But I did train offseason, and I play soccer, which I think has a big impact on running for me.”
Wallace’s freshman campaign included school records in the 400 and 800. She notched her first district title in the 400, and recorded a runner-up finish in the 800.
But Wallace wanted more out of the events that had become her trademark. Despite winning the 800 at districts, Wallace’s time was slower than a season ago, as she ran a 2:22.43 compared to the 2:20.08 that earned her a runner-up finish a year earlier.
After winning the 400 in 1:00.31 at districts last season, Wallace posted a 1:00.58 and finished second this year.
“Once I got to leagues, and my 800 time and my 400 time wasn’t really getting any better, and I was excelling in the hurdles, I thought this race is going to have to be my race for this season,” Wallace said. “Obviously, I wanted to do well in my other events, but it just wasn’t working out.”
Her first breakthrough came at the Schuylkill League meet, where she ran a 46.72, just behind Blue Mountain’s Jacey Miller (45.88).
Wallace won the District 11 Class 2A title with a time of 48.28. She found another gear at states, running a 45.97 in the prelims to advance to the final.
“It was such a relief and a confidence booster,” Wallace said. “I remember finishing that race in the preliminaries, and the girl who got first had a low 45.0, and I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, did I break 46.0?’ I never thought I would break 46.0. And obviously not making it to the finals in the 800, I had to recover really quickly, and I had to just clear my mind after that, because you never know what could happen in the 800, and it didn’t go the way that I wanted it, but I’m happy that I did really good in the 300 hurdles. It definitely was a confidence booster.”
Wallace didn’t get what she wanted in the 400 and the 800. So she got better.
And she might just be scratching the surface.
“We knew the ability was there,” said Miller. “We knew the more experience she got going over the hurdles, it was going to clean up a lot of the little things. In total, I think she had seven total hurdle races, counting the two at states. So four of her seven total hurdle races were in high-stress, postseason competition. We don’t hurdle much at practice because of the beating it takes on the kids.
“So there was minimal hurdle experience there. But it just goes back to her drive to just perfect every technique and craft thrown at her. We know going forward that the sky is the limit for that event as well as multiple other events. She still has a lot of potential to drop even better times in the 400 and the 800 going forward in her next two years, as well as the hurdles, as well as using dual meets to train for other events.”