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Williams impresses

...As next generation meets stars

BY HOWARD WALKER
Senior Staff reporter
walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, June 11, 2018

It can be a nerve-rattling experience when someone competes against his or her idol, but for Briana Williams the occasion was as surreal as it was helpful.

The 16-year-old Jamaican prodigy was pitted against her idol — 31-year-old two-time Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce — in the 100m at last Saturday's JN Racers Grand Prix.

The event placed the young rising star Williams against arguably Jamaica's greatest female 100m sprinter of all time, Fraser-Pryce, on the comeback trail after giving birth last August.

Fraser-Pryce, who was running just her third race of this season, won in 11.10 seconds (-0.2 mps) while Williams finished third in 11.26 seconds, competing against seniors for the first time. American Jenna Prandini split the pair in second place with 11.14 seconds, with Kelly-Ann Baptiste of Trinidad and Tobago fourth in 11.27 seconds.

Williams, the 2018 Austin Sealy Award (most outstanding athlete) winner for her exploits (100m, 200m and 4x100m relay gold medallist) at the Carifta Games in The Bahamas, and who was drawn in lane seven just outside her idol in lane six, left the blocks like a bullet. But once she came out of her drive phase, the more experienced Fraser-Pryce was a few steps ahead and held that advantage to the line.

“It was great. She helped me because she was right next to me and I know that I had to get out fast just like she did, so it was a great time, especially because she is my idol,” beamed Williams.

Williams, who ran 11.13 seconds as a 15-year-old in March — which made her the fastest Under-18 runner and the fifth-fastest in the Under-20 category — was pleased with her time of 11.26 seconds, as she matched strides with the professionals.

“It was great. I knew I had to come out here mentally and physically stronger. I was ready for it. It was a great race overall,” reiterated Williams, who is coached by the 2000 Sydney Olympics 100m silver medallist Ato Bodon, of Trinidad and Tobago.

It was a very good run by Williams who had behind her seasoned Jamaicans such as Natasha Morrison (11.41 seconds) and Gayon Evans (11.46 seconds), both of whom represented Jamaica at the Commonwealth Games in April. Evans actually won bronze while Morrison was fifth. Schillonie Calvert-Powell, who won relay gold for Jamaica at the London Olympics, was seventh in 11.51 seconds.

Williams, who has four of the top five leading times in the Under-18 category, will next be at the Jamaica Junior Trials (June 21-24) as she prepares for the IAAF World Junior Championships in July.

“Running against the pros really helped — like from two weeks from now I have Jamaica Junior Trials and World Under-20s, so it really helped me,” she ended.