Track and field

Speeding toward track stardom


Briana Williams, only in fifth grade, already is being compared to stars such as Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross.

All of 10 years old, track prodigy Briana Williams led a rock-star like following into the Miramar City Hall last September to accept a plaque, trophy and Declaration citing Sep. 24, 2012, as “Briana Williams” Day.

Williams has won over her hometown with her track exploits, and former world sprint champion turned Emmy-nominated announcer Ato Boldon believes Williams has the support system necessary to etch her name alongside some of the all-time greats.

“I am always wary when they are this good, this young,” Boldon said. “However, I think Briana will be the exception in the way that Sanya Richards-Ross was the exception, the way that Allyson Felix was the exception and Usain Bolt was the exception. Because I think that Briana has a combination of talent and a group of people to keep her very grounded, myself included.”

In only her third track season, this charismatic fifth-grader has created a buzz not seen since Richards-Ross was tearing up the youth track leagues before spearheading St. Thomas Aquinas’s rise to track dynasty status.

To put Williams’ times in perspective, her personal-bests of 12.87 in the 100 meters and 26.29 in the 200 would have placed second in both races at the Broward County Middle School championships in May.

Perhaps nobody is more qualified to opine on the comparisons between Richards-Ross and Williams than James “Tennessee” Lance, a sprint guru who tutored Richards-Ross at St. Thomas Aquinas and now serves in the same capacity with Williams for the Miramar Optimist Track Club.

“Briana reminds me a lot of Sanya, even the way she stays upright running,” Lance said. “Both got that raw speed, Briana is just bigger. At such a young age, how Briana gets out of the blocks is amazing. I think Briana has as good a top-end speed as Sanya did. Briana is something special.”

Those qualities, plus a relentless will to win, have helped Williams, now 11, uphold a remarkable undefeated streak in the 100 meters and 200 that dates back to last season.

The biggest star of the Bantam girls’ division in 2012, Williams captured five gold medals during the USATF Junior Olympics and AAU Junior Olympics.

Williams won the 100 at the USATF Junior Olympics and helped the Miramar 400-meter relay team of Amaya Rose, Jada Bell and Myrka Cadet clock 53.12 to break a 12-year-old meet record.

At the AAU Junior Olympics in Houston, Williams swept the 100 and 200 and then sparked the 400-meter relay team to a winning time of 52.91, breaking a USA Track and Field Junior Olympics record.

“A lot of people tell me I stride like Sanya Richards so that makes me happy,” Williams said. “I look at myself and try to do better and listen to what my coaches say. At first I was surprised when my coach said I was beating middle school and high schoolers’ times in the 100. I was kind of nervous at first but then I ran and lost the butterflies and got first.”

Williams has moved up to the 11-12 sub-midgets category this summer and will look to chase the AAU Junior Olympics records (12.10 in the 100, 24.47 in the 200) at the AAU Junior Olympics in Michigan from July 26 to Aug. 2.

“I am very excited about Briana,” Boldon said. “She is about at the top of the list in terms of potential. It goes back to her support. She has a mother in Sharon Simpson who is very much involved. I tell them that the list of those who have not made it is very, very long. Those who have made it is very short. So I ask the young runners which list do you want to be on? Briana has been very receptive.”

Read more Broward High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

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