RBR Interview: Lauryn Williams, Olympic sprinter, by Larry Eder

When Lauryn Williams was four years old, she was playing the neighborhood with her German Shepard, Ben. She had a habit of running home with Ben, and she would make a bit of a game of it. One day, as her mother observed, Lauryn was sprinting home besides Ben, and she passed him on her way home, sprinting with abandon. That night, her mother signed her up for her first track club, and the rest, as they say, is track & field history....


Lauryn Williams with Sharon Barbano, photo courtesy of Matt Teuten Photography

On Thursday, April 15, 2010, Saucony President, Richie Woodworth, announced, in front of the assembled company, that Lauryn Williams, had been signed by Saucony as a sponsored athlete. Saucony, one of the premier performance brands in running, had signed Wallace Spearmon, and now, Lauryn Williams, as they begin to develop a global sports marketing presence.

The Saucony staff, like they were, with Wallace Spearmon, were treated to an off-beat, humorous interview, by VP of Communications, Sharon Barbano, of Lauryn Williams. Sharon and Lauryn had the crowd laughing at one time, fascinated at the other. Among the trivia on Lauryn: She has a degree in Finance from University of Miami. Lauryn has her real estate license. Favorite color is purple. Believes in biting off more than she can chew. Five sisters and two brothers, proficient in sign language, has a great Dane, Athens, who she calls " a Diva.", has a Mickey Mouse tattoo, and collects all things, Mickey Mouse.
Lauryn Williams is one of the elite in U.S. sprinting. She gets better in rounds in a championship event. As a senior at the University of Miami, Lauryn won the 100 meters in 10.97, the second fastest time of the year. She went on to win the Olympic silver medal in Athens, the gold at 100 meters, and as part of the 4 x 100 meters in 2005 in Helsinki World Champs, and an agonizingly close silver in the 100 meters in Osaka in the 2007 World Champs.

In my mind, though, Lauryn has shown her class and grace throughout her career. Her motto, "Hard work knows no limits." is as important to her as the air she breathes. Her coach, Amy Dean and her been together since her frosh year at the University of Miami. She gives back to the sport, and her community, always grateful for the gifts she has had and continues to have. An intensely positive and spiritual person, Lauryn knows that she has a gift and believes that she has a duty, to her Creator, to use that gift, and give back to her community.

(One more bit of background info. While I was doing the interview, Lauryn had brought one of her good friends, a former teammate, now a track coach, who was, in fact, coaching Lauryn's
little sister--they had been on the state championship 4 x 100 m relay team in high school together!)
RBR, 1: What was your first running experience?

Lauryn Williams: My mother took me to my first event. It was an inner city track meet in
Detroit, Michigan. I had been educated in private schools, totally different environment.
I did not enjoy my first experience. In fact, I ran screaming away from the track!

RBR, 2: How did you get involved in the sport?

Lauryn Williams: When I was a kid, I use to play with my German Sheperd, Ben. I would
take him into the neighborhood, and one day, when I was four or five, I beat Ben on our
run home. My mother then signed me up for the local track club.

RBR, 3: When were you  running for a track club?

Lauryn Williams:
I started in the track club when I was I was nine. I did not like the club,
so I returned to track when I was in sixth grade, through eighth grade.

RBR, 4: How did you like the track club?

Lauryn Williams: It was easy, my attitude at the time was, win, as long as I won,
it was cool!

RBR, 5: What were the name of your clubs?

Lauryn Williams:
When I lived in Detroit, I ran for the Cheetah Track Club. When I
lived in Pittsburg, I ran for Wings of the Moon!

RBR, 6: What was high school track & field like?

Lauryn Williams:
(Laughing), workouts were pretty light.
We were known for our sunning, and we took a lot of
sun tan lotion! Workouts, were, (laughing), pretty
light! We practiced our 4 x 100 meter relay hand offs,
as our team won state, occasionally, we would do
a 150 meter sprint, jog a lap, then maybe three
more 150s!

RBR, 7: After your experiences in high school, which, were,
pretty light hearted and really, just fun, what would you tell
high school girls about competing in track & field?

Lauryn Williams:
Make the most of the opportunity. Do not focus
too much on form. At this stage of the game, you have limited
info in high school, and if you get to the college level, the
coaches there will clean up your form. Run, have a good
time, enjoy the sport, but do not focus on the sport too much!

RBR, 8: How many times did you make the state track
meet in high school?

Lauryn Williams:
I made it first as a freshman, we won the
4 x 100m relay, and I won the 100m, as a senior, in
11.62 ( Track & Field News ranked Lauryn fifth
that season for prep girl sprinters!)

RBR, 9: What do you remember about the state meets?

Lauryn Williams:
I remember the steak salad (smiling).

RBR, 10: What was the name of your high school, and
your high school coach?

Lauryn Williams:
I went to Rochester High School,  and
my coach was Roger Price.

RBR, 11: What was the biggest mistake you made in high
school in track & field?

Lauryn Williams:
I had no work ethic.

RBR, 12: Tell me about college?

Lauryn Williams:
Steve Rubin, from the University of Miami, was
the first person to call, on the first day of recruiting. The school
stuck by me. I took my visit to the University of Miami in February,
got a sunburn, returned to the ran & snow of Pennsylvania, where
it was four degrees!


Lauryn Williams, photo courtesy of Matt Teuten Photography

RBR, 13: How did you go from the light workouts of high school to the
workouts at the University of Miami?

Lauryn Williams:
I thought I was going to be sent home! Coach Amy
Dean sent you summer workouts, to keep yourself in shape, I did none
of them.  You were supposed to get yourself in shape for a twelve minute
run, which was done on the first day of real practice. I believe that it was my
birth day or near there. So, when I got to the university, the girls were
heading out for a training run, and asked me to go for a run, I said,
"No thanks."

The day of the twelve minute run, the goal was to be in shape enough
to do six laps in twelve minutes. I knew I was in trouble early on, I did
not make it past three, I was dead last.

oach Dean did a good job in masking her disgust. I knew I had to step
it up a lot. Amy was very patient: know the basics, do not go
overboard. I had no idea how to do the A skip or any other portion
of Coach Dean's workouts. But, I did apply myself, and I caught
on very quickly. In my freshman year, I went from 11.62 to 11.30,
which is pretty good!

RBR, 13: You obviously stepped it up at the University of Miami,
tell us about some of your workouts?

Lauryn Williams:
The Amy Dean warm ups take 30 minutes. When
I made the relay squad in 2003, the more experienced athletes
cracked up. Some people consider them a workout in themselves!
But they work (laughing)! I have had only one injury during my
career. Coach always wants us to be fully prepared, and ready
to run, when we do a workout or race.

A typical Fall workout might be, warm up, then four times 250 meters on Tuesday,
followed up by a body weigh circuit. On Monday, Wednesday & Friday, we would lift,
and we focused on fifteen exercises. I train roughly three hours a day, six
days a week.

RBR, 14: What was the revelation in racing in college?

Lauryn Williams:
I knew I was okay. Coach Fry at South Carolina recruited
several of the top athletes ahead of me in the 100 meters my senior year
of high school: Erica Whipple, Alexis Joyce. I was not recruited by him,
but thought, hey, I am ranked fifth, someone will be interested in me.

I guess that I had a chip on my shoulder. No one thought I was worthwhile.
I went to college at the University of Miami, because Coach Dean stuck
by me. I wanted to repay her for providing me with a free college eduction.
I still did not think track was okay--that happened in my sophomore year.
But, by working so hard, I stepped on the track at South Carolina, lined up
against those girls (Whipple, Joyce), girls that I could not beat. For
the first time, I got out there, and beat them. None of those girls ever
beat me again, after my freshman year (2001).

RBR, 15: What do you like about relays?

Lauryn Williams:
Relays are where track & field becomes a team. Track is such
an individual sport. You win or you loose. You are on a team, have
some camaraderie, all on same page...

RBR, 16: When did you decide you liked track?

Lauryn Williams:
It kind of grew on me. I had success, I made nationals three years in
a row, indoor and out. I did not win a title until my junior year!

RBR, 17: What is the difference between high school and college sports?

Lauryn Williams:
It is all about time management. Demand is not the same in
high school as in college. Going to class at 8 am, after an hour of weights, then
classes til lunch, but schedule lunch so you ear early enough so you keep
your lunch down in workout, shower, and its 4 pm! Now, it is time for
dinner, home work, study hall!

I made my first team as a frosh in college, it was my last year as competing as a
junior (under 19), in the World Junior champs. I got out there, competed in my
first international, won it, I even had to get a passport!

It was quite telling in college. One moment, I just remember, I should have won the
indoor nationals. You get this chip on your shoulder when you figure out that
you were best in the field, but you did not deliver. I ran 10.96, second fastest
time in world that year. I remember this ferociousness, but that is all I remember
from my racing. If I think in a race, or remember something, then I am not running

RBR, 18: What do you remember about the Olympics in Athens?

Lauryn Williams:
It was neat, I had 20 of my family there, it was good, aside
from my Dad getting sick .

RBR, 19: What do you remember about the final?

Lauryn Williams:
I will take that (silver medal). When I came across and found out that I had the silver medal. I note, Oh my goodness, a silver medal!

In 2005, in Helsinki, I remember the rain! Our race started in the rain! When I race,
I hear the gun, and react. If I think during the race, I am loosing!

RBR, 20: Tell me about Coach Amy Dean, your coach in college and as a professional?

Coach Dean and I are P, B & J. She did a really good job recognizing my body, gearing
workouts particularly to me. As my body changed, she changed workouts!

RBR, 21: What do you love about our sport?

Lauryn Williams:
I love that God gave me a talent, and you do not waste that. This is my talent, and I have been lucky with so many other things, I want to run to my full potential.

Special thanks to Mark Bossardet, Saucony VP of Sports Marketing, Sharon Barbano, Saucony VP of Communications and Lauryn Williams, for her time and her honesty.
Also, special thanks to Jeff Lawrence, Mullen PR.

For more on our sport, please click on www.american-trackandfield.com.

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