Hurdler Emerson Liburd ends LHS track career with state gold medal
LAHAINA – Quietly and without fanfare, Lahainaluna High School senior Emerson Liburd has left an indelible mark in the annals of Hawaii interscholastic track and field.
The lithe, easygoing 17-year-old Napili resident recently completed a twin peaks ascent to a second consecutive Hawaii High School Athletic Association gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles.
He achieved it with a state record time of 14.35 – one of the top thirty clockings in the nation this year – as the cherry on top to cap off his high school career for the Luna Red Tide.
Liburd also won a bronze in the grueling 300-meter hurdles event in his final competition as a high school athlete at the HHSAA Island Movers State Track and Field Championships at War Memorial Stadium on May 16.
Liburd, who also played soccer and football for the Lunas, readily admits that he wasn’t always the fully committed student athlete he is today, as he prepares to go to Clackamas Community College on his pathway to attend the University of Oregon to compete for the Ducks.
“I really wasn’t into it during my freshman and sophomore years,” he said. “My grades weren’t very good, and I didn’t work very hard in track. But something clicked between my sophomore and junior years when my mom, my sisters and Coach Ray Yamat pushed me and encouraged me. I realized that he (Coach Yamat) was there to help me, and that my mom (Carol Liburd) would always be there to support me. They both pushed me really hard to succeed.”
Emerson added that during his first two years at Lahainaluna, he received instruction from Coach Randy Casco along with the inspiring training from Yamat throughout his high school career as a hurdler.
“They both let me know that I had the potential, and they didn’t want me to waste that potential. They let me know that I could do big things with track – set records and win state titles – and they had tremendous patience with me,” he said.
Coach Yamat has a deep background in track from his learning experiences at clinics at San Jose State and Stanford, which he has transferred to the Luna student athletes (including his two daughters).
He saw the championship potential in Emerson. “He grew up big time from his freshman year to now. He woke up and realized how good he could be and gained a more disciplined outlook on life,” Yamat said.
“Now, he has the will and drive to excel at the next level,” Yamat continued. “A big memory in my mind is of Emerson stumbling at the start of a big race, falling back to last place, and then rallying his spirit to pass all the competitors, including the Baldwin hurdler who had taken the lead, to destroy his psyche and win the race. He has gained the attitude to refuse to lose. With this drive, with all the advanced training he is getting, I see him succeeding at the college level. He has the mindset and the explosion to do it.”
Emerson also credits his track coach from last year, Andy Claydon, as being a mentor for him. Claydon is the West Side representative of Young Life, a Christian-based support organization for teenagers.
“Coach Andy helped me build a spiritual foundation in my life. Young Life has been an inspiration that keeps me on the right track,” Emerson said.
But above all, Emerson looks across the dining table at home and sees the most important support of all in his mom, Carol.
“My mom has done everything for me. She encourages me to eat nutritious food, to avoid fast food. She cooks healthy, homemade meals every night and encourages me to live a healthier life. She taught me about exercise and health awareness, including weight training, that has made me a much stronger athlete. She has always been there to push me to make the strongest commitment I can.”
Young Liburd is excited to graduate and feels little sadness in moving forward with his life.
“I don’t feel like this is a farewell. I feel like it is taking the next step to building my future that will include coming back and giving back to this community. Lahainaluna has been a big part in making me the person that I am,” he concluded.