Written by Bryan Messerly
West Virginia University’s first-ever female track and field national champion, Pat Itanyi Williams was one of the sport’s most decorated performers, earning seven All-America honors and establishing six school records (four of which still stand) from 1995-97.
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The native of Ukehe, Nigeria, who won the 1995 long jump title at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, came to WVU after one season at Alabama A&M, where she was an All-American in the 100-meter hurdles and heptathlon.
Itanyi’s initial season at WVU produced a national title, three All-America honors, three Atlantic 10 titles and an ECAC title. She was also the Atlantic 10’s female Track Athlete of the Year.
Her leap of 22’1” at the NCAA Outdoor Championships was the longest in WVU history (a record that still stands today) and 10th longest in NCAA history at the time. She also participated in the 100-meter hurdles at the event. Her other All-America honors that year came during the indoor season as she finished third in the long jump and fifth in the 55-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
As a junior, she picked up another All-America certificate with a fifth-place jump at the NCAA Indoor Championships while also qualifying in the 55-meter hurdles. Outdoors she qualified in the 100-meter hurdles and long jump. Also that year, she won BIG EAST and ECAC titles in the long jump.
In 1997, Itanyi closed with a flourish, posting three more All-America performances in the heptathlon and long jump to give her seven for her brilliant Mountaineer career.
Her 5,647 points in the grueling seven-event heptathlon at the NCAA Outdoor Championships broke her own school record of 5,577 points and earned her a fifth-place finish. She also finished third in the long jump at the same meet. Earlier that year, she had an eighth-place finish in the long jump at the indoor championships.
At the time, the seven All-America citations were the most by a Mountaineer female track and field athlete and matched the seven won by Olympic gold medalist and future NFL player James Jett (1989-92).
In addition to her success in Morgantown, Itanyi represented her country in international competition as an athlete and coach.
She qualified for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta but did not compete due to injury. After winning the heptathlon in the 1998 All-African games, setting a record that still stands today, and finishing second in the same event in ’99, she qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and competed in the long jump to become WVU’s first female track and field Olympian.
A 1997 graduate of WVU with a degree in physical education, Itanyi returned to WVU in 2002 as a graduate assistant coach. She earned her master’s degree in athletic coaching in 2003 and later served as a full-time assistant until 2005. During that span, she coached eight BIG EAST qualifiers and two All-Americans. After leaving WVU, she became a coach for the Nigerian national team and represented the nation in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Anthony Williams, the associate head track coach at Villanova, and their daughter, Tonya.