Jameson Williams walked off the track in utter disbelief.
A junior standout for the Cardinal Ritter boys track and field team, Williams was the top seed in the 300-meter hurdles at Clayton's Marion Freeman Invitational on April 28. One of the state's top hurdlers and the defending Class 3 champion in the 300s, Jameson had visions of winning the race, wowing the crowd and setting a new personal best on one of the best weather days in a cold, wet spring.
Those hopes were dashed when his foot clipped the first hurdle and Williams face planted onto the track.
“That's the first time I ever fell over a hurdle,” Williams said. “I didn't like it. My body got all scratched up. I've got scars on my chest from the track.”
It was a miserable way to end a meet that Williams will never forget. It started well as Williams finished third in a loaded 100-meter dash. He then was cruising to victory as Ritter's anchor leg in the 400 relay when things came off the rails. Williams pulled even with Pattonville's Derrick Boyce III on the home stretch, looked over at him and started a conversation.
He didn't tell Boyce how much he admired his form. Williams chattered the last 50 or so meters of the relay, won the race and was then disqualified for unsportsmanlike behavior. Williams and Boyce are friends so it was more playful than anything, but that didn't matter. The Lions were disqualified.
An hour or so later the 6-foot-2 and 170-pound Williams crashed and burned in the 300 hurdles.
It might have been the best thing for him.
“I think that might have changed his whole year,” Ritter coach Ruben Albright said.
It appears he's right. Williams brushed off his mistakes at Clayton and turned in two of the top performances in the state this spring.
On May 1 at the Archdiocesan Athletic Association's championship meet at O'Fallon Christian, Williams remained undefeated in the 200 as he won in a state-best time of 21.23 seconds. He then won the 300 hurdles in a season-best time of 38.03. It's the second-fastest time in Missouri behind Cleveland NJROTC's Antonio Norman, whose season-best is 36.83.
Four days later at Lutheran South, Williams dropped a surprise as he won the 400 in 47.23 for the fastest time in Missouri. It's a hair better than Hazelwood West sophomore standout Justin Robinson, who clocked in at 47.24 at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational on April 7.
Williams has run legs on Ritter's 1,600 relay team, but Saturday was the first open 400 he'd run since he was in middle school.
“I hadn't run an actual 400 since I was 12,” Williams said.
If not for an injury, Williams wouldn't have entered the 400. Junior standout Hasani Barr suffered a hip injury and has not competed this season. A national track talent, Barr is an exquisite 400 runner. Without him in the lineup, it forced Ritter's coaching staff to figure out the best way to shuffle its lineup to score the most points it can in the state series.
“We've had to make some adjustments,” Albright said. “Guys had to step up. They don't have to replace Hasani, but they have to be on top of their game. They have to be the best they can be.”
That means for the Lions to have a shot at a state trophy, much less a state championship, they'll need other athletes to find points, especially on relays. Barr and Williams are skilled enough to wash away a lot of warts on a relay team, but neither will be available to do that going forward. Barr is hurt and it looks like Williams will enter four open events with the hopes of securing the 40 points that would come with four victories.
Williams has the top times in Class 3 in the 100, 200, 400 and 300 hurdles. That means he can't jump in and save a relay as athletes are limited to four events per meet.
Albright said the Lions have worked this season on building their relays without the security blanket of Williams or Barr.
“We told them, 'Before you start using (Williams) as a crutch, let's run good times without him,' ” Albright said.
Ritter has the fastest 400 and 800 relay times in Class 3, but those times both came with Williams running the anchor leg. The other Lions will have to put it all together at the Class 3 District 2 meet Saturday at Principia. The top four finishers in each event will advance to the sectional meet. The top four finishers at the sectional meet advance to the state meet in Jefferson City.
The ability to advance by place and not time will benefit Ritter and Williams over the next two weeks. If the Lions can advance their relays with a top-four finish, it gives them more time to practice.
Williams will benefit because it means he doesn't have to empty the tank each race. He'll have to run preliminary races in the 100 and 200 in the morning then return to run finals in the afternoon. Williams then has to run the 400 followed immediately by the 300 hurdles. There won't be much time for him to catch his breath between races.
“I can't run all out if I don't have to,” Williams said. “I have to have stamina for my next race.”
Being busy is nothing new to Williams. A high-profile wide receiver prospect, Williams has received 43 Division I football offers that includes the likes of Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State and the like. When he's not on the track, he's at football camps keeping his skills sharp and impressing more scouts and coaches.
Plus he balancing a rigorous academic load at Ritter.
“That's mandatory. I'm doing my best to keep my grades up,” he said.
Williams is focused on helping the Lions chase down a state championship on the track, then he'll turn his attention to football in the summer and is unsure if he'll balance football and track. He said he does not plan to commit until he takes all five of his official visits. Until then he's going to continue balancing school, track, football and recruiting.
“It's kind of hard,” Williams said. “It's a decision that's going to be coming up real fast. I'm just trying to enjoy the process.”
CBC HOSTS FIRST DISTRICT MEET
Rocky Streb had no idea what he was getting himself into. He just knew it was time to get into it.
CBC's athletics director, Streb volunteered to host the Class 5 District 2 meet Saturday at CBC. It will be the first postseason meet CBC has hosted on its campus since it moved from its Hi-Pointe location in 2003.
“We got a brand new track last year. You feel a professional responsibility,” Streb said. “Certain schools kept getting stuck with it. It was time to step up.”
Streb is stepping up and into a challenge he has never before faced. CBC hosted the Metro Catholic Conference meet May 2. The boys-only five-team league was a cinch compared to what will descend upon CBC's campus Saturday morning. Sixteen teams, split evenly between boys and girls, make for a much busier and hectic soiree. The logistics of hosting are among Streb's biggest concerns. Spectator parking, team bus parking, team tent setup were atop the list of things that were keeping him busy early in the week.
The actual meet was not stressing Streb because the coaches of the participating schools have made it easy on him.
“These track people are the best,” Streb said. “They take care of their business.”
Streb also was happy the Cadets get to compete at home in a postseason meet. This will be the first team to do so in a long time.
“We're really happy about it,” he said. “They work hard. It's time for our boys to enjoy some home comfort.”
The boys teams competing at CBC include Chaminade (boys), Cor Jesu (girls), Eureka (boys, girls), Kirkwood (boys, girls), Lafayette (boys, girls), Marquette (boys, girls), Nerinx Hall (girls), Parkway South (boys, girls), St. Joseph's (girls) and St. Louis U. High (boys).
The gates open at 8 a.m. Field events begin at 9:30 a.m. while preliminary running events begin at 10:15 a.m.
Finals are scheduled to start at noon and admission is $5. The meet schedule and admission cost are set by the Missouri State High School Activities Association.
ILLINOIS GIRLS PREP FOR SECTIONALS
Sectional meets get under way this week in Illinois. Few of the area's best teams will be competing close to home.
Belleville East, Belleville West, Collinsville, Edwardsville, Granite City and O'Fallon will compete in the 3A sectional Thursday at Danville. Field events start at 3:45 p.m. while running events begin at 4:45 p.m.
Cahokia, Columbia, East St. Louis, Freeburg, Mascoutah and Waterloo are at the 2A sectional Wednesday at Herrin. Field events begin at 3 p.m. and running events begin at 4:30 p.m.
Civic Memorial, Breese Central, Highland, Triad and East Alton-Wood River will compete at the 2A sectional at Springfield Lanphier on Wednesday. Field events start at 3 p.m.
Althoff, Mater Dei, Dupo, Metro East Lutheran, Madison, Okawville, Red Bud and Gibault will compete in the 1A sectional Friday at Nashville. Field events begin at 4 p.m. with running events slated to start at 5:30.
CLEVELAND EYES TITLE DEFENSE
The Cleveland NJROTC boys track and field team began its Class 2 title defense with an outstanding showing at the Class 2 District 1 meet at Monroe City.
The Commanders have a small but talented team and all those key pieces came up big at the district meet.
Senior Antonio Norman won the 110 hurdles (15.36), 300 hurdles (39.67) and high jump (5 feet, 10 inches). Senior Kelsey Cole won the long jump (21 feet), triple jump (46 feet) and the 200 (22.5). Senior James Allen took district titles in the 400 (51.08), 800 (2:01) and was part of the victorious 1,600-meter relay (3:28). He also ran on the 3,200 relay (8:36) which was the runner up to Maplewood-Richmond Heights (8:28).
Monroe City won the district meet with 163 points followed by Cleveland (143), Maplewood (116) and Clark County (88.5).
Maplewood had three district champions on the boys side. Zach Barton won the 100 (10.96) after qualifying for the finals in the second of four heats. Malik Stewart won the 1,600 (4:44) and the 400 relay team was victorious in 45.06 seconds.
On the girls side Jayda Buchanan won the 400 (1:00) and 800 (2:27).
Crossroads McKinlee Morris doubled up on district titles with wins in the shot put (38-4.5) and discus (120-6).
JEFFERSON MARCHES INTO SECTIONAL
The Jefferson girls track and field team fell one point short of winning the Class 2 championship last spring.
A year later the Blue Jays opened the postseason series with a dominating win in the Class 2 District 1 meet on Saturday at Charleston.
Jefferson scored 192 points to win the district title and was followed by Saxony Lutheran (116), St. Vincent (81) and Caruthersville (75).
Junior standout Anna Heacock cleaned up in the hurdles with district championships in the 100 (14.74) and 300 (48.26). She finished second in the long jump (17-2.5) and third in the 200.
Junior Jordan Heacock, Anna's sister, won the 3,200 (13:16) and ran a leg on the championship 3,200 relay in 11:07. Jordan was also the runner up in the 1,600 (5:48).
On the boys side the Bluejays got a district championship from pole vaulter Tanner Davis who cleared 12 feet.
Valley Park had a pair of girls claim district titles. Junior Jilane Pederson won the high jump (5-2) and junior Keiosha Rogers took the 100 (12.67).
AREA CLASS 1 WINNERS
There are only a handful of Class 1 competitors in the area but that didn't stop some of them from claiming district titles.
Barat senior Addie Grapperhaus was dynamite Saturday at the Class 1 District 1 meet at New Haven. Grapperhaus won the 100 (13 seconds), 200 (26.87) and 400 (1:00).
Crystal City's Michaiah Fels won the 100 hurdles (17.2) and 300 hurdles (50.56).