Now healthy, Williams sets sights on future marks
Stars and Stripes November 23, 2023
Stars and Stripes has selected an Athlete of the Year for each of the respective fall sports played across each of DODEA’s Europe and Pacific theaters. Check out our site this week to read profiles for golf (Tuesday), tennis (Wednesday), cross country (Thursday), volleyball (Friday) and football (Saturday).
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan – Jane Williams loves to run. She always has.
But during her freshman and sophomore years at Oak Harbor, Wash., running and Williams did not get along.
Despite giving it her best efforts, Williams could never seem to manage better than 6½ minutes in the 1,600- and 14:45 in the 3,200-meter races. Her mile splits in cross country were around 7½ minutes.
“Very slow,” Williams recalled.
Searching for answers, Williams and her folks visited a physician to find out what might be wrong. Severe anemia, caused by low levels of iron in her blood, was the doctor’s diagnosis.
“We discovered the problem before we moved” and she began taking iron supplements before moving to Iwakuni in summer 2022, Williams recalled. “My iron was getting back to normal and I started seeing continued improvement” in her running, Williams said.
Once in Japan, instead of finishing 5-kilometer cross country races in 25 minutes and somewhere in the middle of the pack, Williams began hitting the top five and closing in on 20 minutes.
It would be nice, she thought, if she could beat 20 minutes in a race.
“But then I did,” Williams said of her 19.27.9 time in the 2022 virtual Far East cross country meet. That gave Williams her first championship finish, first place in DODEA-Pacific’s Far East Division II last October.
It’s been first place all the way since then.
Williams went unbeaten in the track and field 3,200 last spring and first in all but two 1,600 races.
Then came the 2023 cross country season, in which she finished first in every race, set records in the Far East meet last month and the Pacific in late September and helped Matthew C. Perry High School capture the Far East meet’s Division II boys, girls and overall school banners.
For all that, Williams has been named Stars and Stripes’ Pacific girls cross country Athlete of the Year.
“It took a while for her to get the adjustment, but once that happened, she took off,” Samurai coach Brad Cramer said. “My coaching was all about ‘Go out and do your best,’ and she hasn’t done anything less than that since.”
As well as rewriting the Pacific record book, Williams said she found herself wide-eyed and pleased at the progress she had made since the days in Washington.
“Last year, I kept surprising myself at my constant improvement,” she said. “This year, I wanted to be undefeated in cross country season, to break 18:30 in the 5-K and I wanted to have our team repeat as (Far East) champions and I wanted to do my part, and that meant winning.”
There was the Sept. 30 meet at Iwakuni, when she clocked 18 minutes, 12.4 seconds, a Pacific record. She and her teammates also stood out in the Falcon Flyer meet at Canadian Academy the week before.
Then on Oct. 23, Williams won the Far East D-II and overall girls race in 19:19.3, breaking the Gosser Memorial Golf Course record at Misawa Air Base. The next day, Williams teamed with senior Tyler Gaines to win the Far East D-II and overall team relay.
“Teammates are what make running fun,” she said. “They make you want to go to practice every day and want to do your best when you run.”
Her boys counterpart, William Beardsley of St. Mary’s, set similar records on the male side and says he thinks Williams “doesn’t get nearly enough credit.”
“She’s got the body, she’s tall, she’s lean and you can see in her face, she gives it her all. She puts in the miles and she’s very well coached,” Beardsley said.
So what does Williams feel she can do come track season?
“I want to get the Pacific record in the 3,200 and get as close to 5 flat in the mile as possible,” Williams said. That would mean chasing 11:04.56 in the 3,200, set by Brittani Shappell of Seisen International in 2015, and 4:57 in the 1,600, set by Iwakuni’s Laurie Taylor in 1977.
Williams ran a two-mile time trial in 11:12 in October. “Very achievable,” Cramer said.
THE WILLIAMS FILE
Age — 17.
Place of birth — Houston.
Sports played besides cross country — Track and field.
Favorite school subject — History.
Least favorite school subject — Science.
Athlete she looks up to — Courtney Wayment, USA Track 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Favorite artist — Taylor Swift.