GREENSBORO – A military background led senior North Carolina A&T track and field sprinter Darryl Williams to where he is this weekend.
Williams and six other Aggies will compete in the 2014 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. Williams will be competing in the 100 meters and the 400 meter relay. Williams did not qualify for the 100 until May 12 during the Aggies Last Chance meet at A&T’s Irwin Belk Track.
It is that perseverance that has impressed his coach and has the Aggies believing he can deliver one last great performance before his collegiate career ends.
“Darryl has been the heart and soul of this men’s team this year,” said Duane Ross, the Aggies director of track and field programs. “I’m happy to see everything he’s been working hard for begin to come to fruition. He’s racing with more confidence here at the end of the season where it matters most. It definitely shows.”
It is not bad praise for an athlete who started competing to track to “stay in shape.” Born in Miami, Fla., Williams’ family moved to Jacksonville, N.C., 10 years ago when his father entered the military. As a football player at White Oak High School, he was required to participate in track and field.
“We were expected to stay in shape,” Williams said.
From there he fell in love with the sport. When it came to choosing where to compete in college, something else caught his heart.
“I didn’t consider any other schools,” Williams said about signing with A&T in 2009. “All of our state meets were held at A&T, and I loved the track.”
When he entered A&T, he was running a 6.91 in the 60 meter indoor. That time improved to 6.75 by his senior year in indoor. His first 100 time in college was clocked at 10.68 at the 2010 Raleigh Relays. He ran a 10.39 to qualify for this year’s preliminary round.
“Over the past few years I’ve grown a lot as a track athlete,” said Williams. “With the help of my coach, I’ve studied the sport and learned a lot about both track and my body.”
Williams won the silver medal in the 100 at 10.55 at the 2014 MEAC Outdoor Championships.
This will be the fourth time in Williams’ career he has competed in a 400 meter relay at the NCAA regionals after he and his various teammates also qualified 2010-12. Williams along with teammates Jarrell Elliott, Earl House and Torrance Womack qualified for the 2012 NCAA Nationals from the regional meet in 2012.
Williams will be competing in the 100 meters at the regionals for the third time after qualifying in 2010 and 2011. Last season, he sat out the outdoor season as the Aggies went through a rebuilding process.
Williams completed multiple tasks during his season away from the track. He graduated in May of 2013 with an undergraduate degree in liberal studies. He is a graduate student in the master’s program for teaching in physical education program, and thanks to the season off, his 2014 400 meter relay teammates which consist of Desmond Lawrence, Caleb Gabriel and Marquis Noble are poised to make a statement at regionals.
“Going into the meet running in the 100, my expectations are like any other sprinter, to win,” Williams said. “We’ve all made it here, so now it’s to compete and do what I can to come out on top.”
After completing his track collegiate career, Williams plans to finish graduate school and continue to train and pursue a professional track career.
“I’m proud of him,” said Ross. “Not only because he competes hard, but because he has led this team this season like a true military general would lead his soldiers to war.”
Joining Williams at the regional meet are six other Aggie athletes that were top-48 in their event.
Junior Keenan Smith will be competing in the triple jump at the regional meet for the third straight year. He will jump Friday at 5 p.m. Last year, Smith jumped 48-feet, 3 ¼ inches in the first round. This year, he is ranked 10th in the region at a personal best jump of 51-feet, 7 ¼ inches
Senior Desmond Lawrence will be competing in the men’s 100 meter dash Thursday at 6:30 p.m. In 2013, Lawrence ran a 10.44 in the quarterfinals, which was not enough to qualify for NCAA Nationals. This year Lawrence’s fastest time is 10.33, ranking him 25th going into the regional meet. He will also be competing in the 200 (Friday, 8 p.m.) and on the 400 meter relay (Saturday, 6 p.m.). Lawrence is the 2014 60-meter and 100-meter MEAC champion.
Freshman Joshua Peoples will also be competing in the 200. Peoples is ranked 32nd going into the regional meet at a personal-best of 20.82. Freshman Todd Townsend will be competing the 110 meter hurdles Friday at 5 p.m. Townsend is ranked 43rd in the region at a personal-best time of 14.13.
“Our guys are ready and excited for this competition and I’m excited for them. It’s fitting that our two seniors will kick things off in the 100 meters; they will set the tone for everyone else for the weekend. Our goal is to get through to the NCAA championships with every athlete competing. Our team wants this and they’re ready to compete,” said Ross.