Athlete of the Week: Sherando’s Williams looking to build off last week’s success

Stella Williams Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY — Stella Williams has been looking for that one race that would jump start her season and give her some momentum. Last weekend she may have found it.

The Sherando junior finished second in the Augusta County Invitational and said it was exactly what she needed after a slow start to the season.

Williams traded the lead throughout the race with Wilson Memorial’s Spencer Tuttle before finishing second in a time of 20:38.

“It was great, because I don’t think I’ve ever led a race by myself,” Williams said. “When I was in first it felt really good. I felt like I was on top of the world. It made me feel really good. I knew I needed just that one race just to do well for the rest of the season — to give me that confidence. Because I haven’t been doing well like throughout the past other races. So I think this is really just like the start of something for the season.”

Williams, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for the week of Sept. 11-17, and her teammates had never ran at the course before.

However, she said she really enjoyed the course and would love to go back and run there again next year. Sherando’s girls team won the meet.

Sherando coach Jamie McCarty said that he was very pleased with how Williams ran the race.

“She got out front early. She was really, really aggressive,” McCarty said. “I felt like it was a good solid race for her to get her confidence back and to get her footing under her again. We’re still a long way from the finish of this thing. But it’s good to lay down some solid times and some solid performances early, and get your confidence back and feel like you can get back and get better than you were the previous year.”

Williams said she and Tuttle traded leads, but down the stretch Tuttle pulled away a little bit and she wasn’t able to catch up at the end. Williams finished 11 seconds behind Tuttle.

Williams ended the last cross country season on a high note as she placed fourth in the Conference 21 West meet, and was one of only two Sherando girls to qualify for regionals.

She followed that success up with a strong track season. Williams led the area in the 1,600-meter run, which she said is one of her favorite races.

McCarty said the biggest thing for Williams now is to become more consistent.

“It’s great to have that one really good race, but if we want to get better and really succeed we got to do that consistently week in and week out,” McCarty said. “And I think that right now that is going to be the focus going forward is being able to do those things every week, every place we go, no matter what the course is, or who the competition is.”

Williams has plenty of competition on her own team. The Warriors have had three different runners lead the way for the team in three different big meets.

Williams, along with fellow juniors Olivia Couillard and Camryn Ubert have been solid at the top of Sherando’s races this season.

“We really push each other,” Williams said of Couillard and Ubert. “Like I don’t think I’d be where I am now without them. Because in the races they just help lift me up. Like if I have a bad day they’re like ‘it’s just one race, it’s not the end of the world.’ And we’re just so supportive of each other. It’s just like a family.”

Williams said she is missing one of her family members in the Sherando program this year. Her older brother, Hayden, graduated in May and was on the boys varsity team all four years of high school.

Stella Williams said Hayden is the one who got her into running. She said they still run together whenever they can.

“He’s influenced me a lot — just his passion for it,” Stella Williams said. “And I wouldn’t have started running without him. I would have been doing another sport. And just thinking about him running — it just helped me so much. He’s definitely my inspiration for running.”

Williams said her big goal, individually, is to push her times down throughout the rest of the season.

Williams said she has high hopes for what the team can accomplish this season.

“I would like our team to get to states,” Williams said. “I know we can it’s just whether we’re all ready to put in the work for it.”