Soft-spoken Eric Liedtka is as quiet as he is fast and dedicated.
Which was good news for the Notre Dame High School track and field team, who only cared about the noise Liedtka made with his feet during a strong senior season.
“He was voted captain the last two years,” Irish coach Joe McLaughlin said. “His work ethic is what got him the captain job. He doesn’t speak much, but he’s a good leader. He’s out there busting his butt every day. He just works very hard in practice every day and it paid dividends in the end.”
The Hamilton Square resident comes from a family of Notre Dame track men. His oldest brother David was a thrower and middle brother Jake did hurdles, “so he just followed in their footsteps,” McLaughlin said.
Actually, Liedtka followed in Jake’s footsteps as he spent his career mainly competing in the 110 high hurdles and 400 intermediate hurdles. This spring, he took fifth in the 400 hurdles at the Mercer County Championships in 57.5, claimed second in the NJSIAA Non-Public A South Sectional in 56.98 and finished fifth in the Non-Public A State Championship with a personal best time of 56.79.
As a freshman, that place would have gotten Liedtka to the Meet of Champions as the top six plus wild cards advanced out of states. But the rule has been changed to where only the top three finishers move on.
“It’s definitely frustrating, but what can you do,” Liedtka said. “I was still real happy. I had a lot of fun running track this year. I thought it was a really good time.”
Growing up in Hamilton, Liedtka played soccer, CYO basketball and Nottingham Little League baseball, but the latter two sports never really stuck. He stayed with soccer and played for the Irish varsity last fall.
While attending St. Gregory the Great, Liedtka dabbled in track one year.
“My two older brothers did it and my second oldest did hurdles so that’s mainly why I do that,” he said. “I did it for one year in middle school but didn’t start really getting into it until high school. It was just an introduction at St. Greg’s, but when I got to high school I definitely remembered doing it and decided to do it again.”
As a freshman, Liedtka showed promise as he took fifth in the 55 hurdles in the NJCTC Frosh-Soph Winter Championships, and was part of the 4×55 Shuttle Hurdle Relay that took first at the NJCTC Winter Relays. He also ran the 200 meters and 4×400 relay. His spring season included fourths in the 110 and 400 hurdles in the NJCTC Frosh-Soph meets, and he helped the 4×400 finish fifth in the Mercer Frosh-Soph championships.
Liedtka got his first individual gold medal during winter track as a sophomore when he won the NJCTC Frosh-Soph meet in the 55 hurdles. He took the 110 hurdles in the same meet during the spring, while claiming fourth in the 400 hurdles.
In his junior indoor season, Liedtka was also put in the high jump, long jump and triple jump, but went back to strictly the hurdles and 4×400 in the spring. He began to show improvement in the 400 hurdles, taking fifth in the Mercer Coaches Classic and Mercer County Championships, while finishing fourth in the Non-Public South A/B meet and fifth in the Non-Public A championship.
He went back to jumps this past winter, but returned to hurdles and the relay in the spring.
“Doing jumps was fun,” he said. “I wasn’t as good at it as the other events but it was fun.”
This past spring was a culmination of all of Liedtka’s hard work as he had his first top-three finish in a sectional and was able to advance to states in both hurdle events for the first time. He took fourth in the 110 hurdles at Mercer Coaches Classic and fifth in the 400 hurdles at the Mercer meet.
“Every year I got faster,” he said. “It was just a natural progression toward where I am now. I advanced to states last year (in the 400 hurdles) but the competition was a little better this year. It was a goal of mine and it definitely meant a lot this year.”
Liedtka continued to have better performances in the 400 hurdles than the 110 this spring.
“I’m not sure why,” he said. “I think I’m just naturally fast at the mid-distance, more than the shorter 100.”
McLaughlin explained it as, “It’s partially his height and also his 100 speed isn’t quite where some of the big guns are. But he has good 400-meter speed.”
Liedtka also took over running anchor on the 4×400 this spring, helping the Irish to fifth in the sectional meet, which advanced them to states.
“It’s exhilarating running anchor,” he said. “It’s definitely a lot of fun and a challenge. It’s really fun to finish the race.”
When it comes time to concentrate on a meet or an event, Liedtka says “My teammates help, we keep each other focused. Before the race and warm-ups I kind of get myself focused and in the zone a little bit.”
McLaughlin feels that when it comes to personality, Liedtka is similar to brother David, who had a standout career at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and is now pursuing his master’s degree at Stanford.
“He was very quiet also, and led by example,” the coach said.
Liedtka’s next stop is the University of Gettysburg, where he is thinking of majoring in economics while also running track. One thing is certain, he doesn’t want to stop running.
“It’s one of my favorite parts of high school,” he said. “Just getting to know people, know my teammates, the coaches. It was definitely a great part of school.”