TRINITY — Ask Mitchell's Jeff Leavey, a track and field coach for four decades, what trait Mustangs runner Kelli Williams shares with the best athletes he has worked with and he is quick to respond.
"When they finish their workouts, they'll all come to you and say, 'What can I do to improve?' " Leavey said. "That's what she does. Every day after practice, every time it's, 'How do I get better.'
"She's never satisfied."
That hunger, combined with her natural talent, have made Williams one of the area's top runners in 2010. Already this spring she has twice finished the 1,600-meter run in five minutes, 24 seconds, which not only is a personal best but a school record. In last week's Chasco Invitational at Gulf, she convincingly won the 1,600 and 800.
"She's about 10 seconds ahead in the mile and seven seconds ahead in the 800 of where she was last year (at this time)," Leavey said. "She's also ahead of where she ended the season."
For Williams, 2009 concluded with heartbreak.
She sustained a calf injury that became an issue at the worst possible time. In the Class 4A, Region 2 meet, Williams failed to reach state in the 1,600 by one spot and less than a quarter-second after placing fifth. In the 800, she took seventh.
"I was close, but that calf injury had a big part in that," Williams said. "I was disappointed, but what can you do. Because of when the injury happened I didn't have time to rest."
That Williams was even close to making state is nonetheless impressive.
A year earlier she began her prep career as a sprinter who specialized in the 400. The following fall, Williams ran cross country for the first time, with the sole intent of getting into shape for the sprints.
"I did pretty well," she said, "and I decided I liked distances more. I thought I had more talent in that area."
Apparently, she was right.
Last fall, Williams was 23rd at state in cross country.
Today, she is determined to reach state in track. But that is hardly her only goal.
"This is going to be my year," Williams said. "I'm going to make a stand. I want colleges to notice me."
According to her coach, Williams has been a workhorse at practice.
"She runs with the boys," Leavey said. "We don't separate by gender, and she'll be right in the middle with the boys. Then she just explodes at the end. When we run what we call 300 repeats, she flies. The other girls aren't even close to her."
Admittedly, Leavey is thrilled with Williams' 2010 start.
But ever the competitor, Williams has a different take.
"I'm ready to bring those times down," she said. "I'm tired of seeing the same times. I want to race against better competition. It's hard to run against the clock. When I get into the big (events) against the best runners, I think I'll do anything to stay with them. I think that's going to help me a lot. I'm excited for that competition."