It’s been a while since Bruce Williams ran at the state track meet. It’s been so long, in fact, that the rules of the road, as it were, have hit a detour, especially for sprinters like the South Charleston senior.
That’s why it was imperative for Williams and his Black Eagles teammates to compete in the Tudor’s Biscuit World Charleston Relays Class AAA meet Friday at University of Charleston Stadium, which mirrors the changes in this year’s state meet.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, the state meet, also set for UC Stadium next month, is being contested over three days instead of the normal two, with each of the state’s three classifications being given its own day.
For top-notch sprinters like Williams, it means you could be running in both the trials and the finals on the same day in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. If you’re fortunate enough to qualify in four state meet events, you might have to take the track six times in a stretch of six hours or less.
That situation, however, doesn’t seem to faze Williams or his coach, Ashley Halley.
“I think he’s enough of a competitor,’’ Halley said. “This is his thing. He’s a runner. I find it less concerning that he’s got to run extra times, rather than staying hydrated, staying limber and enjoying it. He’s a senior.’’
Of course, no one competed last year as COVID canceled the entire track season. Williams barely got to appear in the state meet as a sophomore due to a hamstring injury, and in the one event in which he ran, the Black Eagles were disqualified for illegal participation.
So it’s been a while — more than three years — since Williams ran in four state meet events as a freshman. During the interim, he’s become one of the top sprinters in West Virginia, with times this season of 10.97 seconds in the 100 and 22.27 in the 200, both recorded in Friday’s trials at the Tudor’s meet.
The only marks faster than his in AAA have been posted by Wheeling Park phenom Torrence Walker, whose respective clockings of 10.56 and 21.23 put him in the same impressive neighborhood as former Olympian and NFL player James Jett, who had a record-breaking career at Jefferson from 1986-89.
Williams was his usual strong self on Friday, taking the 100 and 200 with finals times of 11.02 and 22.60, respectively, becoming one of just two individual double winners in the boys meet.
The other was Parkersburg hurdler Aaron Kupfner, who led the 110 high hurdles in 14.65 seconds and 300 intermediates in 41.16. The Big Reds, who are No. 2 in the state in the RunWV.com AAA power rankings, won Friday’s boys meet with 1121/2 points, bettering runner-up Bridgeport (69) and University (63).
Williams seems unconcerned about the possibility of running six times in the state meet, even if temperatures soar into the high 80s as they did Friday in Charleston.
“The thing about running ability,’’ Williams said, “is that it doesn’t matter if it’s as cold as Russia or as hot as Africa. You’ve just got to put it out there and run.
“It doesn’t matter about the environment. It matters how much you want to do it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the shoes for it or not. It matters if you’ve got the determination and the will power. It’s only that. It’s all you need, for real.’’
Halley thinks Williams will rise to the occasion as it presents itself. She recalled the first Laidley Field Invitational on April 30 when Wayne’s Ethan Bowens beat Williams in the 100 early in the meet.
“He had his first real scare when the kid from Wayne caught him,’’ Halley said. “He came back and sat, and he had this look. I thought, ‘He’s going to catch that kid in the 2.’ I even said to him before he went down to run, ‘You’re going to catch him, aren’t you?’ He said yes. There just wasn’t a hesitation. He’s his own entity.’’
Williams then ran a 22.47 to Bowens’ 22.57 in the 200 that day.
The next big challenge for Williams could be against Walker in the AAA state meet if both qualify for the June 12 finals.
“I’m looking forward to running against him,’’ Williams said. “I’m not worried about it. It is what it is. I don’t really worry about who I’m running against. It’s just a matter of what I can do.’’
Williams didn’t get to compete in the relay events Friday as two members of SC’s 4x100 and 4x200 squads were on COVID pause.
There were only two double winners also in the girls meet, which was won by Huntington with 991/2 points. Hurricane (82) placed second and Preston (72) third.
Hurricane’s Lily Haught took the 100 hurdles (15.47) and 300 hurdles (48.70) and ran on two winning relay teams, giving her the meet’s high-point award with 25 points. The other individual repeat winner was Preston’s Allie Martin in the 800 (2:22.26) and 1,600 (5:12.34).
The boys high-point winner was Huntington’s Noah Waynick.
The Class A portion of the three-day Tudor’s meet will be held starting at 9 a.m. Saturday at UC Stadium. This event matches the setup of the state meet, which will be spread over three days this year (June 10-12, in order of A, AA, AAA).