Signed, sealed and delivered: MAU's Williams returns, defends 100-meter dash crown
BURLINGTON - Perhaps it's best to just let Leniesha Williams explain the process that led to her retaining her 100-meter championship at the 2014 Vermont Division I track and field championships.
"The prelims were really good, I thought. I wasn't running with the fastest girls so I didn't think I did well, but when I looked at the results I was like ‘wow, that's faster than when I came in,'" Williams said on Saturday. "Then I was getting ready for the finals, I looked and saw [South Burlington's] Kayla [Gilding], I saw [teammate] Raheemah [Madany], and I was like I have to book it. And I did book it."
Williams kept her sprint title by beating out Madany and Gilding, who finished second and third, respectively, in a time of 12.54, beating her own seed time by 0.2 seconds.
It was a moment of pure bliss for the Mount Anthony Union High School senior. Not only did she defend her title against a fierce group of competitors this year, Williams also defeated a concussion that nearly kept her out of her final track season in order to stay queen of the sprints.
Asked what she did to get ready mentally for the race, Williams said that she just had to focus on her own abilities.
"Just get my head in the game. I feel like it's my race here," Williams said. "Forget about who is running around [me], just focus on what my coaches tell me, what I do in practice, by drive, keeping it, and just run. Just run."
The win was the highlight on what was a banner day for the MAU sprinter, as Williams also added another 4x100-meter crown to her trophy collection, as well as a pair of personal bests in the high jump on her way to a third-place finish - she had competed in the long jump just once this season prior to Saturday - and a third-place finish in the 200.
"The first time I jumped was at Hudson Falls. Ever since then, I haven't jumped," Williams said about her day in the pit. "But when I did that 16 feet, 9 inches, I was like ‘whoa.' This year, I'd been jumping like 15, 14 feet during the indoor season. When I got 16-11 (her placing jump), I was like ‘this means something.'"
In the 200, Williams was convinced she was going to win as she entered the final straightaway, but the third-place finish wasn't going to keep her down on Saturday.
"I thought I was winning, but then they both got me," Williams said of Gilding and Colchester's Pearl Abiti, who went 1-2 in the race. "But otherwise, I was happy with my finish. They have been training longer than I have, and they run the 400 so they have more endurance than I do."
Her coaches, Kathleen Newton and Bob Kurtzner, couldn't help but lay praise on their senior when the meet wrapped up at Burlington High School.
"What a way to go out," Newton said. "[She is] a girl that has run for four years. We are really proud of her."
"I think a lot of it with her is mental," Kurtzner said. "She is back and she is really happy that she is back. All of this has been in her the last two years. But mentally, once she is up, she is up."
Even Madany, who had her best 100 running of the season yet still couldn't catch Williams, had to give it up for her 4x100 teammate.
"I did really want to win [the 100], but overall I wanted her to win it before me," Madany said. "I don't know why."
Part of it could be that Williams' win cements her as the girl to beat in the 100 in Division I Vermont. With the addition of her 100 and 4x100 medals, Williams' cabinet also includes the 55-meter title from the last winter season, a 4x200 sprint title in the same winter season, the 100 crown from the 2013 outdoor season and a 4x100 title as a sophomore.
Saturday marked the final time that Williams could defend a Vermont crown, but her season isn't over quite yet. Next weekend, Williams will lead a small contingent of Patriots at the New England Championships. She is still chasing after school, or state, records in all three of her running events. She might get there, but she might not.
For Williams, though, it's no real worry. Saturday's meet was the perfect culmination of her MAU running career. She felt the emotions that come with a send-off as she celebrated the 100. But in the end, all that mattered was the result.
"I was actually crying because it is my last day at a state meet," Williams said. "People were hugging me and I was hugging them back. I wished them good luck, but I was like ‘yes, I won!'"
That she certainly did.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.