Published December 20. 2012 4:00AM
Kyle Liang was in the sixth grade when he was first captivated by a television program called America's Best Dance Crew. Soon, he found himself watching YouTube "how-to" videos for moonwalking and break-dancing tips. Soon, he began rearranging the living room furniture to practice the moves on his own.
Now, Liang posts his own how-to videos, as well as his own dance creations. He's received more than two and a half million YouTube hits, with some of his work breaking into six digits in terms of viewership.
"It's a passion of mine I know will always be there," Liang said. "I don't need it to be the main focus of my life."
You might begin to sense a theme: Liang, a senior at Norwich Free Academy and The Day's 2012 All-Area Boys' Cross Country Runner of the Year, doesn't do anything unless it's with 100 percent of his effort.
He has a 3.99 grade point point average (a sore subject since Advanced Placement chemistry cost him his perfect 4.0 last year).
He is the Eastern Connecticut Conference boys' cross country champion, winning the 3.1-mile race at Norwich Golf Course on Oct. 18 in 17 minutes, 9 seconds. That followed an undefeated dual meet season.
You'll also find him on the home page at norwichfreeacademy.com. There's a panoramic photograph featuring some of NFA's storied buildings, with Liang inset underneath, wearing his letterman's jacket.
"He's the best," NFA coach Chad Johnson said recently, asked about Liang. "He's fantastic. In their four years, how many people do you know that you can't say anything bad about? He's so personable. He's so modest.
"Even the administration knows it. He's the face of NFA."
Liang is humbled by his successes.
When he received the McGrath Family Most Valuable Player Award at the end-of-the-season cross country banquet, presented by NFA's 1956 State Open champion Clem McGrath, former Wildcats coach Gene McGrath and Gene's wife Judy, a prominent runner in the community, Liang was awestruck.
"Not just for Dan (Cardin) and Derek (French) and Andrew (Weiler, last year's cross country teammates), honestly that was for the entire Wildcat family, any runner that's ever come to NFA," Liang said of winning the ECC title. "I felt like it was for all the Norwich running community."
Liang, whose father John is originally from Taiwan and mother Shirley from Malaysia, is also a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and Science National Honor Society.
He was class president for three years until he stepped down as a senior to become more involved with the Athletic Leadership Council, as well as captain of the cross country team. Liang hasn't decided where to attend college, but wants to pursue a career in the medical field as a physician's assistant or nurse.
Liang calls himself a nerd.
"It's all kind of embarassing, but I embrace it," he said of becoming interested in dance the day he saw a group called the JabbaWockeeZ win season one of America's Best Dance Crew on MTV.
"They had great break-dancing moves, great popping moves. I was blown away," Liang said.
His improvement in running mirrors that of his dancing - "I was god-awful," Liang said of the start of his athletic career. "I was for two or three years."
"During the offseason I started lifting with the kids; he was destroying me," said Johnson, the State Open cross country champion in 1991 and 1992.
"I finally caught up to him. He's so strong."
Cardin, one of the 2012 NFA graduates whom Liang looks up to like he would an older brother, said having Liang win the ECC title made his night.
"I was just in my dorm (at the University of North Carolina), late at night, going through Facebook," Cardin said. "And I saw he won. ... He's just really successful and talented as far as school and sports go.
"He's friendly, easy to get along with. He's the most well-rounded person I've ever met."