As a freshman on the Independence track and field team last season, Sun-Sará Williams showed she wasn’t to be taken lightly.
Williams finished third in the Southwestern 4A conference meet in both the 100-meter dash, running in 22.69 seconds, and the 200, recording 26.19 seconds. She also came in fourth in the 400, crossing the finish line in 1 minute, 2.39 seconds.
Williams followed up her standout conference season with a third-place showing at the Class 4A Western Regional with a season-best 12.45 seconds and earned a trip to the state meet in the 100, where she admittedly struggled with the pressure and magnitude of the moment.
But with the experience she’d gained, Williams was ready to show everyone that last year was just the beginning.
“I thought I was going to be doing really well this year,” she said. “My form was a little bit better this year and that made a really big difference. Also, my start got a little bit better so those things helped.
“I used to run with my arms in a ‘V’ and move them (out) when you’re supposed to keep them in an ‘L’ and bring them all of the way up. That little change helped me a lot.”
With a few minor tweaks and a fall spent getting in shape while competing on the Patriots’ cross-country team, Williams delivered in a big way during her sophomore season.
She upped her production from last year’s conference meet, this time claiming gold in the 200 (25.79 seconds) and 400 (59.41 seconds) and was second in the 100 (12.39 seconds), missing out on her third conference title by just 0.01 seconds.
But, despite finishing second, Williams said the finish in the 100 spurred her to push deeper as the season wore on.
“The 100 was my favorite event at conference,” she said. “Even though I didn’t win, it was a very good race – it was very close – and I love races like that. The 100 is quick and fast – if you don’t come out of the blocks fast you don’t do so well and I didn’t do it that race, so I wanted to make sure I got a better start.”
Using a near miss at conference as motivation, Williams piggybacked a Western Regional title in the 100 (12.36 seconds) and a third-place finish in the 200 (25.47) onto her conference success and set a personal record at the state meet in the 200 (25.22 seconds), earning her the 2014 Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly’s Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“I wanted to PR at the meet and I did that, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but I think next year will be even better,” she said of her 12th-place performance in the 100 and 10th-place finish in the 200.
“I’m slowly growing up the ladder and I know I can do better. Coming out of the blocks is something I’ve been working on by doing a lot of weight training and I don’t have a very good start, but from what I understand I do have a good finish. So coming around the curve I don’t do so well, but coming around the last straightaway is when I start catching people.”
Patriot coach Ken Waldron, who has more than 35 years experience as a coach and has seen some of the best to run on area tracks, thinks Williams can put it all together and make her next two years very special.
“She made some really big improvements,” he said. “If I get her to run the 400 consistently all of the time, the 100 and 200 times will drop and she’ll even be a lot better, but she’s made leaps and bounds from last year. She’s starting to buy into what I’m selling and she can be very good if she keeps working at it.”
And that’s exactly what Williams plans on doing.
“I’m proud of how well things have been going so far and I didn’t know my time was going to drop so much this year,” she said. “But I have a lot to improve on and I’m trying to get under 24 (seconds) in the 200 and under 11 in the 100 and I know I have to work to get there.”