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Time On Her Hands

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Angela Williams of Chino High has finally run against an opponent that’s faster than she is.

An opponent she can’t leave behind with her rocket start or pull away from with her blazing speed.

That opponent is time.

To be exact, 11 seconds of time.

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Williams, who will compete in the 100 and 200 meters and long jump in the state track and field championships at Cerritos College on Friday and Saturday, began the season intent on becoming the first U.S. high school girl to break 11 seconds in the 100 without the aid of wind.

But after falling short of that goal during the first two months of the outdoor season, the defending state 100 champion is done chasing the 11-second barrier.

“I’ve just stopped stressing out,” Williams said. “I’m not worrying about times anymore. I did that during the first part of the season and it just got me down.”

That was obvious in the Arcadia Invitational at Arcadia High last month.

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Williams, Track & Field News’ 1997 national high school girls’ athlete of the year, had run a time of 11.32 in the 100, yet she was disappointed with her performance.

The usually easygoing and optimistic Williams shook her head in frustration as she criticized her start and technique in the race and her mental preparation before it.

“I think I’m just not concentrating,” she said. “I’m basically getting into the race and my mind is somewhere else. I’m not really into it this season and I need to be before it’s too late and the season is over.”

Johnny Williams, Angela’s father, thought a lack of concentration wasn’t his daughter’s problem. Rather, she was too focused on running fast.

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“Me and my father had a long talk after [Arcadia] and he just said, ‘You have to relax,’ ” Williams said. “He said, ‘You need to let all your pressures and worries go and things will be fine.’ ”

The USC-bound Williams did as told and her joy for track and field has returned.

She is looking forward to competing in the USA Track & Field Junior championships at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville on June 26-27.

The meet will act as the qualifying meet for the world junior championships in Annecy, France, from July 28-Aug. 2.

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Qualifying for the world junior championships and successfully defending the numerous titles she won in 1997 were Williams’ two main goals at the start of the season, according to Ernie Gregoire, a coach with the Southern California Cheetahs who has worked with Williams for the past five years.

“She is certainly on pace to do that,” Gregoire said. “She hasn’t really been challenged this year, so she’s not really sure where she’s at, but she should be fine.”

Despite not being pushed, the 5-foot-2 Williams has had a senior season that most high school sprinters only dream about.

She was named Track & Field News’ girls’ indoor athlete of the year after tying the national high school record in the 50-meter dash with a time of 6.32 seconds in the L.A. Invitational at the Sports Arena in February and moving to second on the all-time 60 list in winning the National Scholastic Indoor championships in March with a time of 7.26 seconds--four-hundredths of second off the record set by Aleisha Latimer of Palmer High (Colo.) in 1997.

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Williams is the national outdoor leader in the 100 at 11.32 and the 200 at 23.21. She set her leading mark in the 200 running into a head wind at the Masters Meet, finishing first. She also won the 100 in 11.40 and finished third in the long jump at 18 feet 7 inches.

At the Southern Section Division I finals, she won the 100 in a wind-aided 11.16 and the 200 in a wind-aided 22.89 and placed second in the long jump with a wind-aided 19-10 3/4.

But expectations can be unfair when you’re coming off a junior year in which you timed a personal best of 11.14 in the 100 and a wind-aided 10.98.

The 11.14 clocking won the national junior title for Williams and just missed the national high school record of 11.13 set by Chandra Cheeseborough of Ribault High in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1976. It also moved Williams into a tie for second place on the all-time list with Marion Jones, the 1997 world 100 champion who ran 11.14 as a Thousand Oaks High junior in 1992.

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“The expectations for Angie are very, very high,” Gregoire said. “But what we’re trying to do is stay focused on executing in races. I’ve always told the athletes that I coach that we don’t want to go into races trying to [post certain performances]. We want to go out and execute and if we execute the performances will take care of themselves.”


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