Miners’ track star is beach bound
April 23, 2010
When Park City High School track head coach Jeff Wyant asked distance standout Ali Williams to submit a list of five Division I colleges she’d most like to attend, she didn’t think much of it.
"I told her that with her results, she could run track in college," Wyant said. "I don’t think she really believed it, though. She’s a pretty humble girl. She didn’t seem to be convinced that they would want her at that level."
To Williams’ surprise, the interest came pouring in. USC and Florida State invited her for visits, as did the University of Hawaii. When Wyant told the Hawaii program that Williams’ parents were Delta pilots and could likely arrange to pay for a flight, they told him not to sweat it. They’d pay.
"I just really liked it a lot," Williams said of the ensuing visit to Manoa, which convinced her to sign with the Rainbow Warriors. "They had a lot to offer."
The Park City senior with two straight top-four state finishes in cross country will run all three seasons for Hawaii – in cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track. Ironic considering that she began the sport as a means of filling out her fall schedule.
"My mom actually made me do it my first year," said the avid lacrosse player and swimmer. "But I stuck with it after that and I really like it a lot."
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Williams made the varsity team as a freshman, starting after two girls were injured, and never looked back. She took it personally when the team came up short of a cross country state title her sophomore year and dedicated herself completely to running.
"She’s been a big part of the reason why we’ve dominated the state the last two years in cross country," Wyant said. "She’s a really good race-day performer. She always brings it on race day. Some days she’s not up there with the top girls on the workouts, but in the race, she’s right there."
Park City’s distance team is unusual in that Williams isn’t the Miners’ No. 1 distance racer, or even necessarily No. 2, but she would be the star on virtually any other team in the state. The top Miners push each other in practice, and their competition and friendship drives her passion for the sport.
"We haven’t talked about (graduation) that much, but whenever we do, I know I get kind of teary eyed thinking about leaving them," Williams said. "We’re a tight group of girls, the whole distance team. It’s going to be really weird not to run together again."
Although the trip takes her from the snow-capped Rocky Mountains to the beaches and waves of the Pacific, Hawaii is not totally foreign to Williams. Her parents lived there for several years as Navy pilots before having children, and the family has vacationed there several times.
"I think it will be an important adventure for her," said her mother, Elizabeth. "It’s an exciting opportunity for the next four years to live something completely different."
She’ll have a travel schedule that a foreign diplomat wouldn’t envy – flying every other weekend back to the mainland during the year – but the silver lining is an annual meet at Utah State that her parents will be able to attend.
Williams said she also owes her major, Chinese, to the instruction for four years of PCHS teacher David Knell.
"I started taking it when I was a freshman," Williams said. "I had taken French before that, and I just did not like it and I wasn’t good at it either. That played a part in my decision to take Chinese, and I loved Mr. Knell. He’s a great teacher."
As for her prospects on the track, Wyant said Hawaii will be a great fit for Williams’ talents.
"I think she’ll be a great contributor to their team," Wyant said.
"It just seems like a great opportunity. Who gets to go to school in paradise for four years?"