JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (June 22, 2016) - Clearing hurdles is nothing new for junior ETSU men’s track and field athlete Michael Williams.
The Mt. Laurel, N.J., native has nearly perfected jumping over hurdles on the track, which was on full display in early June by competing at the NCAA Championships. Against some of the best competition in the nation had to offer, Williams came away with a 14th place finish in the 400mH and Second Team All-American honors.
“It was amazing to be in that atmosphere and be around some of the top athletes in the country,” said Williams. “It was an amazing experience and it meant so much to put ETSU on such a big stage.”
While clearing hurdles on the track has come with ease for Williams, it’s the off the track hurdles that have become the most challenging. During his prep career at Lenape High School, Williams was a district champion in the 400mH and garnered first team all-conference, all-county and all-south Jersey honors.
Williams had a strong start as a freshman for the Bucs finishing second in the 400mH at the Atlantic Sun Outdoor Championships and finishing 31st at the NCAA East Preliminaries in 2013. It was a year full of transition, however, as not winning track events was something new to Williams, who didn’t lose a single 400mH race his senior year of high school. Adding in being a long way from home, Williams overcame the hurdle of a rigorous academic workload during his freshman year.
“Academics were tough. It was hard for me to adjust from high school to college courses,” said Williams. “On the track, I was getting used to the level of competition and accustomed to the high caliber workouts.”
Suddenly, during his sophomore year, the off track hurdles that once plagued Williams became as easy as the ones he jumps over on the track. That was shown when the ETSU hurdler won the Southern Conference Championship in the 400mH.
Following up the performance from a year ago, Williams was once again able to win the SoCon championship in the 400mH, achieving a goal that was set even before he arrived on campus.
“It was something I really wanted to do, to win a title and then hold that title down,” said Williams. “Being able to achieve that title in back to back years makes me feel like I rule the track. I love being able to do that and have ETSU on my shirt.”
His junior campaign was capped with a trip to Eugene, Oregon and Tracktown USA for the NCAA Championships. Williams was the first Buccaneer since Tyler Stepp in 2014 to make it to the NCAA Championships and was the first male track athlete to do so since 2005. ETSU supporters across the globe watched as Williams took the track on ESPN2 in the fastest 400mH heat which included the eventual national champion.
Williams ran the second fastest time of his career to place 14th and earn Second Team All-American honors. While status of an All-American is surely going to stick with him for the rest of his life, Williams knows that there are bigger and better things.
“Just making it to the NCAA Championships gives me the hunger and motivation to drive for higher goals,” said Williams. “I am always looking for improvement and this experience gives me the goals of making the finals next year.”
Williams was quick to give praise to director of track & field operations George Watts and assistant coach/men’s and women’s sprints, hurdles and relays coach Hassaan Stamps for getting him to this point in his career.
“They are like the Master and Student to me. I learn a lot from them not just in track and field but they teach me things on the track that I can apply in life,” said Williams. “They both push me in certain ways and I just want to be able to make them proud.”
Off the track, Williams loves to stay up and play video games like he has done since an early age, which was one of the factors when choosing ETSU. Williams is a digital media communications major and he has the hopes of one day writing stories for video games.
“It’s really hard to find this kind of major on the east coast, as most are out on the west coast and I did not want to go that far,” said Williams. “I wanted to pick a future job that was going to be fun and not be one of those guys that says my job is boring.”
Once back on campus in the fall Williams, will get ready for his senior campaign and another shot to return to the NCAA championships. One of only a few seniors on the track and field team, Williams hopes to show the younger athletes that making it to the national championships is possible.
“I want to be able to boost my teammates confidence and say if I can take on the best competition from the top schools, then you can too,” said Williams. “I want them to see that I was an All-American by doing the same workouts they have, with the same coach and the same facilities.”
By Nathan Palcowski
ETSU Athletic Media Relations