Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mitchell sophomore hits her stride on track

Mitchell’s Kelli Williams didn’t tap into her tremendous running ability until last spring. Now, “I love it,” the sophomore says.


Mitchell’s Kelli Williams didn’t tap into her tremendous running ability until last spring. Now, “I love it,” the sophomore says.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Kelli Williams' classmates at Trinity Elementary and Seven Springs Middle School recognized her running potential long before she did.

Ditch the equestrian stuff, they'd suggest in not so many words. Maximize the potential in your own astounding gallop.

"I would play flag football with the guys and play little games where you'd run," Williams recalled. "And everybody would say, 'You're so fast, why don't you run track?' "

So last spring, as a Mitchell freshman, Williams gave in. With no real athletic experience outside 10 years of competitive English horseback riding, the former Army brat went out for the Mustangs track team. By all indications, it was a lark.

Today, it's her life.

Williams, who would have cackled at the notion of running a 5-kilometer race as recently as January, has evolved into a district cross country champion. At Starkey Wilderness Park last weekend, she stunned a solid field to win the Class 4A-4 title (in 20 minutes, 34 seconds) and earn a trip to Saturday's Region 2 meet in Winter Haven.

A week before, she set a personal best (19:46) to place second at the Sunshine Athletic Conference championships.

"I have," Williams says when asked if she has surprised herself. "I really have because I didn't think I was going to be so good at running, but it's pretty much my life. I love it."

Mustangs coach Jeff Leavey recognized Williams' promise during track season. He tried her in several events before whittling her focus to the 400 meters.

She became a region qualifier in the 400 and 4x400, helping that relay team achieve a school record.

"I didn't discover anything; it's just in her," said Leavey, a wildly successful prep track and cross country coach in Illinois before relocating to Trinity four years ago. "You can't make chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what. She had the chicken in her."

Saturday, on a Polk Community College course featuring mostly clay paths, Williams could flourish again. For one, the course will be much faster than the sugary sand and grass she navigated at districts. Additionally, none of the runners she'll face eclipsed her personal-best time in district competition last week.

And none is likely to match her prerace sustenance. The night before a race, Williams eats a sweet potato loaded with brown sugar, drinks a root beer and hits the sack by 9:30. On race morning, she eats a pear.

Blend the ingredients, you've got the proverbial chicken salad.

"Always at the end of a race," Williams said, "I have the energy to finish hard."

fast facts

Saturday's region meets

4A, Region 2

Where: Polk Community College, Winter Haven

When: Girls 9 a.m., boys 9:30 a.m.

Local team qualifiers: Girls – Mitchell; boys – Mitchell

Local individual qualifiers: None

3A, Region 2

Where: Polk Community College, Winter Haven

When: Girls 8 a.m., boys 8:30 a.m.

Local team qualifiers: Girls – Land O'Lakes, Central, Gulf; boys – Land O'Lakes, Ridgewood, Central, Gulf

Local individual qualifiers: Girls – Jessica Furst, Wesley Chapel; Jillian Browne, Ridgewood; boys – none

2A, Region 2

Where: Chain of Lakes Park, Titusville

When: Girls 9 a.m., boys 9:30 a.m.

Local team qualifiers: Girls – Wiregrass Ranch, Pasco, Nature Coast; boys – Wiregrass Ranch, Nature Coast, Pasco, Hernando, Sunlake

Local individual qualifiers: None

Mitchell sophomore hits her stride on track 11/12/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 11:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars


    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  2. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half



    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.
  3. Rays journal: Archer has strong outing, with two mistakes

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Two pitches RHP Chris Archer didn't execute are the ones that stood out Thursday as Josh Donaldson hit them out of the park. But the two solo home runs aside, Archer turned in a sterling outing that went atop the pile of good pitching the Rays keep wasting.

    Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) works during the first inning. [Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP]
  4. Tim Tebow continues wowing fans as he wraps up bay area games


    CLEARWATER — Tracey Fritzinger has seen Tim Tebow play baseball a few times this year. The 40-year-old St. Petersburg resident went to two of his games against the Tampa Yankees, along with Joy, her little sister from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow, middle, hangs out in the dugout during Thursday night’s game against the Clearwater Threshers at Spectrum Field, the last of St. Lucie’s eight-day trip to the Tampa Bay area.
  5. Rays vs. Mariners, 7:10 Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (50) in the dugout during the ninth inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 7-3.