Track and Field

M'ville senior Briana Williams has seen what it takes to be an Olympian

2012-09-14T22:00:00Z M'ville senior Briana Williams has seen what it takes to be an OlympianJohn Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com
September 14, 2012 10:00 pm  • 

Briana Williams got a ground-level vantage of world-class athleticism, intensity and sense of urgency.

"I mean, careers were on the line," Williams said of the USA Olympic Trials held June 21 through July 1 in Eugene, Ore., before the London Games.

"For many of the athletes there, that was likely their last chance to make it. In that situation, you have to perform. It doesn't matter what you did before. Take Bryan Clay ... "

Clay was the gold medalist in the decathlon at the 2008 Beijing Games.

"But (Clay) didn't make it out of there," Williams said. "He had an off day (tripped during the hurdles event), and that was it."

The Merrillville High School senior was selected to attend the 2012 Youth Leadership Camp at Hayward Field -- where the trials took place -- and was one of the chosen few from the camp to assist the athletes and organizers on the track during the event.

"They expected a lot out from you, but at the same time they wanted you to be invisible," Williams said. "They didn't want you to make small talk and ask for autographs. All the athletes there were focused and professional, and we had to respect that."

Still, Williams was a little starstruck being in such close proximity of her favorite athletes, who included hurdler Lola Jones, sprinter Camelita Jeter, who went on win gold (4-by-100 relay), silver (100-meter dash) and bronze (200 dash) in London, and sprinter Tyson Gay.

"What Tyson Gay was able to achieve at the Olympics was incredible," Williams said. "He was coming off two hip surgeries. He didn't medal (in the 100 finals -- placed fourth), but to come back from those types of obstacles was inspiring."

Gay later won a silver medal in the 4-by-100 relay.

Like Gay and Jeter, Williams is also coming back from an injury. As a sophomore at Munster High School, Williams placed eighth in the long jump at the Indiana High School State Championships. She also is an AAU national champion in the long jump, and has a personal-best time of 12.3 in the 100-yard dash.

But before her junior track season, Williams was shut down with a stress fracture.

"It ended my high school season and my summer season," Williams said.

Now recovered, her focus is entirely on track.

"I used to play basketball, but now it's strictly track," Williams said. "I like basketball, but I love track."

She credits her personal trainer, Nolan Pettis, for adding more distance to her flights.

"Before, I used to just run and jump," Williams said. "But I realized if I wanted to be serious and to be taken seriously, I needed someone to break it down to tell me what I'm doing wrong and what I'm doing right."

Like for the Olympic hopefuls in Oregon, there is also a sense of urgency for Williams, who wants to continue her track career in college.

"If I could get to 20 (feet), that should open a lot of doors," she said. "I've done nineteen-five in practice, but I need to do it when it counts, and this is my last season.

Not only can Williams run fast, but she write fast as well. She originally wasn't going to apply for the Youth Leadership Camp and the opportunity to assist at the Olympic trials until her father convinced her to put her hat in the ring.

"But when I finally decided to go for it, the deadline to submit the essays (online) was just two hours away," Williams said. "I was able to get them in on time."

At the end of the trials, Williams received one of two of the camp's "Leadership Awards."

"It was one of the highlights of the whole experience," she said.

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