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Kennett’s Liam Warren ‘stages’ comeback out of the pool

 

FA_Liam_Warren_croppedLiam Warren

BY ANDY EDWARDS @CHCAndyEdwards
FOR CHESMONTSPORTS.COM

Favorite Athlete: Ian Thorpe
Favorite food: Chicken Parmesan
Favorite movie: This Is Spinal Tap
Favorite TV show: Parks and Recreation
Favorite Music: Punk rock

KENNETT SQUARE – Liam Warren has a certain flair for the dramatic.

A four-year varsity member of the Kennett boys swimming team, he’s been involved in plenty of duels in the pool. Warren even swam the lead leg as the Blue Demons 200-meter freestyle relay team came within a second of setting a school record this season, one coach A.J. Shepherd is confident they would have broken had they been shaven and tapered.

“That’s one I’ll definitely remember,” Warren said.

Liam_swimBut Warren’s dramatic propensities aren’t confined to an eight-foot lane in a natatorium. This past weekend, he took his talents to a different sort of stage.

After a rigorous tryout period, Warren earned the lead role in Kennett’s production of Oklahoma! He played Curly McLain in front of hundreds of people, a pressure at once similar and entirely different from the one with which he wrestles before a big swim meet.

“I always get a little nervous before a big meet, and of course I think most people get nervous before they get up on stage and sing,” said Warren. “I think stretching helps, deep breaths, just telling yourself you can do this and pushing through.”

Liam_OKWarren never quite expected he’d be in this position in the first place. He had participated in plenty of plays in middle school – Beauty and the Beast and The Music Man, to name a few – but that was mostly as a member of the stage crew. Swimming was Warren’s primary focus until this, his senior year, when he decided he had nothing to lose in attempting to revive his career as a thespian.

“This year I was like, ‘maybe I should go for it,’” Warren recalled. “It’s my last year in high school; I might as well. I tried out in November, and I got the lead role. I was very, very surprised and I’m really glad I did it because it was a lot of fun.”

Liam_OK2Earning the role was no small feat. Several years removed from his last lead – Horton the Elephant in a middle-school production of Seussical – Warren had to impress the director enough to beat out four or five other contenders.

“I was pretty nervous,” he said of his tryout experience. “I didn’t really know who else was trying out, so I didn’t know what I was up against. I just tried my best and I guess I did something right.”

Warren must have done quite a few things right. To play a lead role in Oklahoma! requires more than a modicum of singing and dancing panache. Thanks to a well-known local figure, he’s ready for the multifaceted challenge. Since middle school, Warren has taken voice lessons from Leon Spencer, who served as mayor of the Borough of Kennett Square for more than a decade (1999-2010) and helped him prepare for his first lead role in eighth grade. This year, he took some lessons from Stephen Powell, a professional Baritone and family friend, who has played Curly several times in his career.

“I’ve only had two leads in plays so far, but whenever I need to prepare, voice lessons help me to review breathing and keeping good posture and trying to sing my best,” Warren said.

When the curtain drops on opening night this Thursday – and three more shows over the weekend – Warren will bring with him the full confidence of the play’s director, the faithful support of his family and teammates, and an ability to handle his nerves honed over years of athletic competition.

“I think (swimming) has helped me learn to deal with pressure a bit better, definitely,” Warren said. “I’m also pretty confident because my director is very confident in me. I know my family is very supportive of me, and a lot of my teammates are coming. I don’t feel terribly nervous yet.”

Giving life to Curly McLain is only the latest challenge on Warren’s plate. As part of his Eagle Scout project, he’s in the process of constructing a model train cabin for Auburn Heights Preserve, a former estate turned state park in Yorklyn, Delaware. The property features a furnished mansion, completed in 1897, as well as the Marshall Steam Museum, which contains the world’s largest collection of operational steam cars.

Liam_scoutWarren’s project has its roots in a stroke of good fortune disguised as a setback. His original idea was to start a musical instrument lending program at Bayard Taylor Memorial Library in Kennett Square, but the library didn’t demonstrate the level of interest he had expected and the concept proved more complicated than he had thought.

“So,” Warren said, “I had to change my idea.”

And change it he did, with an assist from a family member.

“My brother is a train fanatic, and he always goes to Auburn Heights,” Warren recounted. “He told me they were looking for Eagle Scouts to do a project, so I visited and met with the director. She gave me the idea to build the train cabin and I decided to stick with it.”

He started in the fall with fundraising efforts, selling baked goods to earn money for the parts needed to construct the cabin, which Warren says will measure 106 inches in length, 49 inches in width, and 85.5 inches in height. Currently working on the blueprints, he’ll begin construction soon.

Since the cabin will be outdoors most of the time, Warren says it will mainly be made out of marine-grade plywood. He hopes to have it completed by April 5. After that, a board of review with his Troop 24 committee and a Scout Master conference will be all that stands between Warren and his Eagle Scout badge.

“It’s a pretty cool place, and I’m glad I’m doing my project there,” Warren said. “They deserve recognition for what they’re doing – keeping history alive and teaching people how important steam was. It was a pretty important technology.”

Warren also has a strong interest in electronics. A student at The Technical College High School – Pennock’s Bridge Campus, he spends half of every school day in various electronics courses. Warren has twice been named  the TCHS student of the quarter for the Electronics and Robotics program.

“I love working with electronics, and I really enjoy it there,” he says.

If someone were to say Liam Warren marches to the beat of his own drummer, it would probably be because he built the drums himself. In a band with two former classmates (both freshmen at Penn State), Warren recently found himself needing a new electric guitar – so he made one.

“The one I had was sort of junky,” said Warren, who started playing around age 12. “It wasn’t doing it for me. I wanted something that was going to be truly my own, so I did some research and found a company that sells parts. I designed my own guitar and bought all the parts and put it together.”

SKUGGNow, when his band gets together, Warren’s musical experience is that much more special.

“The whole process took me about two years to complete, but it was worth it in the end,” Warren said. “It’s pretty satisfying to know that you can make something that performs really well. It’s a good feeling.”

And not just for him. Warren’s far-ranging high school experience has been particularly impressive to the man who oversaw his athletic growth.

“When I look at my athletes as a whole person, they seem remarkable,” Shepherd said. “I admire their ability to balance life with school, athletics, clubs, music and so forth. It’s quite a feat. I love seeing how resilient they are by the balance they maintain between all of the activities they are involved in and how they keep a positive attitude.”

Warren may not quite have broken any pool records during his time at Kennett, but that’s not to say he didn’t leave his mark on the program.

“I have been coaching Liam since the summer after seventh grade,” Shepherd said. “He has always been an easily coachable kid with great awareness of his body and a killer work ethic.

“Liam’s ability to be one of the first kids in the water at practice gave him the opportunity to translate a drill to another kid. Early in his career he was the fastest freshman with three seniors in relays; they harassed him about being the young guy but he carried his weight. As a result I saw him paying it forward – he would often talk to the newbies on the team to encourage them. Swimming a marathon of events, including 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly, and relays with his full heart was awesome.”

In a few months, Warren will be off to college. His destination is likely to be the University of Delaware, to which he was recently accepted. Though he’s not yet sure what he’ll study when he gets there, Warren does know his competitive swimming career will come to an end – but not before creating a lifetime of memories.

“It’s a great sport,” Warren said. “I’m really glad I did it. I swam on a great team with great teammates.

“I’ve left my mark on the school. I’ve made my contribution.”

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