Excited about participating in her first NCAA championship meet, Williams didn’t have any preconceived ideas about how well she’d do, but she did tell her parents that if she could set personal records in all of her events, what better place would there be to do that than at nationals.
Ask and ye shall receive.
Williams set collegiate personal bests in all five of her events to claim the NCAA Indoor pentathlon championship with a personal-best score of 4,635 points. The mark set several records, including school, facility, collegiate and NCAA records. She also broke the World Junior record of 4,535 set by Sweden’s Carolina Kluft in 2002.
The U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Association recognized Williams’ accomplishments, earning her the National Women’s Field Athlete of the Year award.
“That meet went way better than expected,” Williams said. “ I set the bar high for myself on that one. I knew coming into Georgia that one day I could win a national championship under (coach) Petros (Kyprianou), but I didn’t think it would happen in my first year and especially not in the indoor season.
“I just had a really good meet and was able to put everything together. My mom reminded me about what I said about my personal bests, and it was fun to have all of that happen with my teammates there.”
Williams started the meet with a collegiate personal best time and first-place finish of 8.21 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles. She followed up with a personal best height and first-place showing of 6-feet, 2 inches in the high jump.
“After the high jump I was thinking this could be a really good meet for me,” Williams said. “I just had to keep performing well to stay ahead.”
Williams’ placed seventh in the shot put with a throw of 39-6.5, which was her pentathlon personal best. She completed her record-setting meet with a personal best and first place jump of 20-9 in the long jump and an 800-meter personal best time of two minutes and 17.31 seconds, placing her fourth in that event.
“Petros said before the 800 that if I run a certain time, that I could break the World Junior record,” Williams said. “I was so nervous, but I was also focused. It’s still so unbelievable because this is my first season here.”
Williams’ success at Georgia, while sudden in her freshman year, isn’t all that surprising given her history. A decorated former athlete from Kell, she won 11 state championships as a Lady Longhorn, setting numerous state records in the process. She was also the first athlete in the state to win the Gatorade Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year for four straight seasons.
Williams’ parents, Blane and Terri, have been tremendous supporters throughout her career.
“I was happy to get runner-up at the SEC championships,” Williams said. “It was good experience to get on the podium so early in my career. Like my dad says, ‘On any given day, anybody can win, so that’s why you run the race.’ But, it was a lot more fun being at the top of the podium at the NCAAs.”
Besides her own God-given abilities, Williams credits Kyprianou’s training methods as a key to her hot start.
“He’s meant a lot to me,” Williams said. “He’s a great coach. He’s really patient with his athletes and I think that’s what drew me to him.
“He doesn’t get frustrated and enjoys teaching technique and working with you. He’s exciting and motivating and a great support system and fan of each of his athletes. He has a plan for me, so I know there’s more to come.”
Williams is committed to not let this early success inhibit her future. She remains grounded in her abilities and what she’s able to do, and she leans on her support system to help keep things in perspective.
“My family and close friends keep me grounded,” Williams said. “I like that and I appreciate what they do for me. You never know what can happen.
“It’s like what my dad always told me, ‘Do your best, and whatever happens, happens.’ That’s all I can do.”