Going Out With a Bang
- By Alyssa Casalino
- February 17, 2012 11:17 AM
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - This weekend, the West Virginia Mountaineers track and field team will be in New York City for the BIG EAST Indoor Track and Field Championships. Any BIG EAST competition packs the pressure, but this season is especially important to seniors because it is their last opportunity to show what they’re made of.
Katelyn Williams is one of those seniors eager to go out with a bang.
Williams finished her undergraduate degree in nutrition last May and she is currently in the accelerated program of the nursing school at WVU. She ended her high school career with a 4.0 GPA and went on to be a member of the Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll, as well as a BIG EAST Academic All-Star at WVU.
She is also one of the standout performers on West Virginia University’s women’s track and field team as a high jumper. With such dedication to school and her sport, Williams’ ability to balance everything seems nearly impossible.
“I knew I wanted to graduate in four years and that I was going to have to work really hard in school to do that,” Williams said. “After my degree in nutrition, I wasn’t sure about what I was going to do next. I thought about medical school, but the nursing school kind of just fell into place right when I decided a fifth year was going to happen. It was kind of perfect.
“I feel like I can balance school and track better than I can balance anything else.”
With the BIG EAST Championships beginning Saturday morning, Williams has dedicated much of her recent time to preparing for the competition.
“I’ve been running a lot,” Williams said. “Right now, I spend about four out of five days of practice running because I’m injured and it’s hard to practice jumping.”
Williams tore cartilage in her knee during the first day of the heptathlon at the BIG EAST Outdoor Championships last season, but she didn’t let that stop her from competing and earning a third-place showing.
“I competed the rest of that weekend and the rest of the season, right through to nationals,” she said. “It was probably a little over a month with that injury. I had to have surgery this summer. It’s my jumping leg so it’s hard, but it really isn’t a horrible injury.”
Because she was unable to do much jumping this summer, Williams focused on conditioning by running and weightlifting. She believes that the lifting has been beneficial to her routine and brought her a new-found strength.
“Practicing and conditioning is a lot more than some people think. I do a lot of running, and I’m a jumper so a lot of people really consider that,” Williams said. “Lifting is huge; I did a lot of it all summer because I couldn’t run after my surgery. It made me a lot stronger. This is my fifth year and it really made a huge difference in how my season is going.”
A ‘huge difference’ is really a huge difference, considering the fact that Williams isn’t exactly new to the sport. She has been involved in track and field for quite some time now.
At West Geauga (Ohio) High School, Williams was a standout high jumper as well as team captain. She was named an All-American at the Nike indoor and outdoor national events and the Chesterland, Ohio resident also holds a Division II state record in the high jump. Williams cleared her highest jump at 1.79 meters, which translates to an outstanding 5-10 ½.
She finally reached that height again last year.
She may not be as tall as many other high jumpers tend to be, but Williams has the skill. She said that the technical aspects of the sport have helped her to improve.
“For the high jump, I think technique and strength are both important. I’m 5-7, which is a little short for a high jumper. Most girls are 6-feet or taller. I think my strength is really important, but at the same time, technique is key because if you’re off, you hit the bar and you’re done. I guess it’s a big combination of both.”
Technique and strength are significant, but a crucial necessity is also a good mentality.
“You have to have a good focus and not lose concentration,” Williams added. “The high jump is really a mental thing and sometimes it’s tough to get over that. Somehow, I’ve been able to overcome those problems with mentality. I just have to make sure I’m the most ready I can be to compete. You only have a few chances to jump.”
Williams only has a few jumps left in her college career. She said that jumping in practice has been rough on her knee, but when the pressure is on, she is able to pull it together for meets. There is much confidence on her side for her final season to put the finishing touches on an outstanding career.
“Qualifying to go to nationals for the first time was awesome,” Williams said, reflecting on her memorable career. “That was one of my big goals. Last year when I qualified again, I was hurt but I was able to overcome it and get it done.
“I remember my coach told me I had to clear a certain height on one attempt or I wouldn’t have a chance. I cleared it on command and it was awesome.”
This season, Williams hopes to top off her accomplishments by returning to nationals.
“I started off slow. It’s been an uphill climb ever since,” she said. “I’ve improved an inch at almost every single meet over the past year. I hope to jump really well and win at the BIG EAST Championships; that’s been my goal since last year. All in all, it’s been a rough season, but it’s better than I ever imagined it would be.”
A solid showing in New York will certainly make it even better.