The distance taxes Savannah Williams’ legs while the demanded speed over the two laps around the track burns her lungs. But the grueling test of will that plays out over 800 meters grabs at the Alvord junior’s heart.
“It’s definitely a love and hate relationship. But when it comes down to it, I love it,” Williams claims.
That love for one of the sport’s greatest challenges has made her one of the state’s best, which she proved last year winning the Class 2A silver medal. It also has her heading back to regionals, aiming to return to Austin and a move to the top of the medal stand.
“That’s the ultimate goal, to bring home the gold,” Williams admits.
To get that chance at a state medal, the Alvord junior will need a top-two finish at this weekend’s Class 2A Region II meet at Tarleton State University’s Oscar Frazier Track in Stephenville. She will run in the finals Saturday.
Williams returns to Tarleton as last year’s Region II runner-up. She finished second in a career-best 2 minutes and 18 seconds. That time was nine seconds better than her District 9-2A runner-up time and seven seconds under her winning area time.
Williams went on to run a 2:21 at the state meet to earn a silver medal as a sophomore.
“She really came out of nowhere last year,” said Alvord girls track coach Rhonda Enis. “I never dreamed of her getting that far. But she kept getting better and better.”
Enis said Williams learned how to run the 800 from racing against Millsap’s state finalist Haley Younger at district and area and Crawford’s Ann Marie Dunlap, the state champion who also won last year’s Region II race.
“It helped her last year to run with some veteran 800 kids and to learn how to run it,” Enis said.
Williams also credits Chelsey Steele, the 2012 bronze medalist from Alvord, with helping her.
“She was a senior when I was a freshman. She showed me the ropes,” Williams said.
Dunlap is not running the 800 this year. She has qualified for regionals in the 1,600 and 3,200, leaving the door open for Williams.
“Savannah should be the favorite,” Enis said. “But as I always say you don’t know what you’ll need to get until you get down there. She may need to get a 2:19 to get out.”
Williams has yet to get to 2:20 this season, while rolling through invitational meets, district and area. She’s won all but one race this year. Decatur’s Haley Dennard, a 3A state qualifier last year, is the only one to beat her.
“This year, she’s been out there by herself other than the one time against Dennard,” Enis said.
Williams ran a 2:24 last week in a heavy wind at the area meet in Boyd. So far this spring, she’s rarely had a good warm day to really run hard.
Entering regionals, Williams has goals in mind.
“I want to beat the [school] record 2:17 and my PR 2:18,” Williams said. “My goal is to win.”
She expects the increased level of competition and her will to win to make her run faster.
“I hate not winning,” Williams said. “I’m competitive. I don’t even like people passing me on the highway.”
Williams enjoys doing the passing especially in the final meters of the race.
“My favorite part is the very last 200 meters when the adrenaline kicks in,” she explains. “No matter how far the girl is in front, you have to catch her.”
She hopes she’s the one everybody is trying to catch Saturday and also May 9 in Austin at the state meet.
“[Last year] was an unforgettable experience. I’m driven to go back. I want to feel that again,” Williams said.