Road to NBNI Blogs: Harrison Williams, Week 1

by Harrison Williams

First off, I’d like to thank Steve Underwood for giving me the opportunity to do this.  He has interviewed me after almost all of my major competitions, and it’s always a pleasure to talk with him after the meets.

My name is Harrison Williams and I’m a senior at Memphis University School out of Memphis, Tennessee.  I compete mainly in the decathlon and pole vault.  Earlier this February, I officially committed to Stanford University for the decathlon.  My PR in the decathlon is 7,181, and my PR in the vault is 16-8.  I’ve only been running track for four years, having started in the spring of my freshman year, and I’ve only been seriously training for the decathlon since the summer before my junior year. 

When I started track, I was mainly a high jumper and hurdler.  After picking up these two events pretty easily my high school coach, Bobby Alston, suggested I do the regional decathlon (my state has a decathlon in high school, except we do the triple jump instead of the javelin).  When I told my parents about this, they actually laughed and doubted whether or not I would be able to pick up a shot put, much less throw it.  Being 6’1” and about 140 pounds at the time, their doubts were justified.

I actually did fairly well in my first decathlon, scoring around 4,400 points despite never having done the long jump, shot put, discus, triple jump, pole vault, or 1,500 prior to competing.  Despite having scored low, Coach Alston somehow saw that I could become great at the decathlon, and suggested I start training over the summer with the Memphis Mustangs Track Club.  Since then, I have been running with the Mustangs every summer and winter, and pole vaulting year-round with my awesome coach, Kris Whitfield.

My primary goal for last summer was to make the U.S. World Youth team in the octathlon, but I came in 3rd, as well as 4th in the pole vault.  Unfortunately, not only did I have to compete in the pole vault in the middle of the octathlon, but the tip on my biggest pole broke on my second-to-last attempt at my final height and essentially took me out of the competition.  Looking back, I would have had a better chance at making the Pan Am Junior team in the decathlon, as the ocathlon takes out my best event, pole vault, and lowers the hurdles – which benefits everyone else but hurts me and my long legs. 

Although I didn’t achieve my goal of making the team, I did learn a lot of lessons from the meet.  First, doing the New Balance Outdoor octathlon and 10 days later trying to do the World Youth Trials octathlon was not a good idea, seeing as I would have to peak twice in a very short period of time.  Second, I should have either gone to the Pan Am Junior Trials in the decathlon or just focused on the pole vault at the World Youth Trials.  As a result, I have decided to compete in the open pole vault at New Balance Indoor Nationals this year instead of the pentathlon, in which I came in second last year.

My indoor season this year has been pretty short, as I’m mainly focusing on outdoor.  Over the winter, I wasn’t able to do much pole vaulting at all.  With my coach being out of town a lot and a few minor ankle injuries early in the offseason, I was only able to vault about five or six times total from November to January.  My first meet was in mid-January at the National Pole Vault Summit in Reno.  I was a little nervous going into it, as my vault coach couldn’t make the trip and I would be jumping on my 16-foot poles that I hadn’t jumped on since USATF JOs in late July. 

However, I had a great meet and ended up setting a PR of 16-8.  I probably jumped about 20 times that day, making most of the bars on second or third attempts.  I felt pretty rusty, but being able to PR at my first meet, despite not having vaulted much, got me pretty excited for this coming outdoor season. 

After Reno, I went to the Vanderbilt Invitational earlier this month.  I lowered my PR in the 60 hurdles from 8.63 to 8.28, cleared 16-6 ¾ in the pole vault and had three great looks at 17-0.  My high jump was a little rusty, but I was able to clear 6-3 ¾.  Our 4x400 team ran phenomenally, consisting of Carlton Orange, Chris Davis, Terrell Jackson, and myself.  We ran 3:20.55, the number two time in the nation at that time.  The best part is that we are all from the same high school, MUS, so hopefully we’ll be able to make a crack at the state record of 3:16.

My next meet is this weekend at the Kentucky Invitational.  I’ll be competing in the vault, high jump, 60 hurdles, and 4x4.  I’m really hoping to get over 17 this time, and I’m really excited about it, because I just got some new poles that I’m going to use.  I now have two 5-meter poles that I can use, which are about four inches longer than the ones I have now.  Hopefully these new poles are what I need to break that 17-foot barrier and after that, all I have to worry about is New Balance Indoor Nationals!

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