How Chrishuna Williams Went From 2:09 to 2:00 800m in Two Years

Chrishuna Williams is relatively new to the 800m event, but she raced it like a seasoned pro last weekend at the Payton Jordan Invitational. The former Arkansas All-American stole the show with a 2:00.58 victory to acquire the Olympic standard. 

Williams, who is currently unsponsored (but probably not for long), not only set a personal best, but also beat tough competition in Justine Fedronic, world finalist Maggie Vessey, and Stanford All-American Olivia Baker. In just her second year as a full-time 800m runner, Williams is asserting herself as a legitimate contender at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

FloTrack caught up with the 23-year-old to learn more about her breakthrough performance. 

You’re still pretty new to the 800m—what's the transition been like?

Yeah, it’s my second year going from the 400m to the 800m. Last year, I PR'ed and ran 2:01 at the Payton Jordan race, which I ended up winning. I was able to do it again this year, but definitely wasn’t expecting to win! I wanted another PR, and I came out with 2:00.58, which was awesome. But it didn't happen all at once—it took two years for me to get a handle on that race.

You certainly beat some quality, experienced athletes in that race. 
That’s definitely true. I wasn’t expecting to get the win. Last year, I think I opened my outdoor season with a 2:03 at the Stanford Invite, and I had no idea who Maggie Vessey was because it was my first year focusing on the 800m. But now I know the names, which is why I knew my section was pretty loaded. 

Overall, were you happy with the race on Sunday?
For sure. I was very excited to see my time, but I know I have more in me. My goal is to break two minutes, and I’m going for it. 

Was it cool to find this 800m talent relatively late in your career?
It’s definitely had its ups and downs! During my junior year, my coach told me I was going to try the 800m, and I said, ‘No way, Coach Johnson! I’ve never trained for the 800m!’ But he just threw me in it, and I ran 2:09. Two weeks later, he said, ‘Oh, you can run faster than that,’ and I ran 2:06—all while still training for the 400m. So it was decided that I'd focus on the 800m my senior year. Come indoors, I wasn’t expecting to win the SEC. But I ran 2:02.95 and ended up winning. 
​How's it been adapting to 800m training?
The quality and quantity is totally different, and I definitely wasn’t used to some of the workouts I’m doing now. I struggled to get the rhythm going, but eventually I picked up on it. At first, I trained mostly with the 400m runners because I was on the 4x400m, so I didn’t want to lose speed. But some days I worked with Coach [Lance] Harter and the distance girls. I also had to learn to balance mileage, because as a sprinter, I didn’t do any of that [laughs]. But now that I have that understanding and work underneath my belt, it’s much easier. 

Is there a specific workout you remember that was particularly difficult?
The 600s. I definitely wasn’t used to those! I think the hardest workout was 600m-600m-400m-400m-200m-200m-200m-200m, and I died! At the beginning, that was so tough for me. Before, my hardest workout was maybe three 300s. Going from quality to more quantity was a big difference. 

Why do you think your coach wanted you to try the 800m?
I guess he saw something in me I didn’t see. People had told me before that I had the endurance, so they said I should do the 800m, and I was like, ‘No way!’ But I only found out I really could do it after he threw me in the 800m. I've been doing it ever since! 

You graduated and continued to pursue a running career. What made you decide to keep it going?
Because I believe in myself and my coach. I have a good support system. And I know I have more in me. Running a 2:01 despite hardly training for it made me think I could go somewhere with this. I decided to keep pushing even without a sponsor. It can be difficult, but luckily my family helps support me financially and I also got a job to help pay bills. I have an agent [Andy Stubbs] as well who is helping get me in certain meets. I really want to see where it could take me.

What's your job?
I’m a part-time substitute teacher at a private school. There, I help with a wide variety of students—from one-year-olds to 6th-graders. 

Do you hope to be a full-time teacher someday?
No, I hope to be a child life specialist. I studied human development and life sciences in school—I love kids! I want to help children who are hospitalized. My cousin was hospitalized, and she definitely wasn’t used to the environment. They [kids] tend to get scared in those situations, so my job would be helping to keep them calm and interact with them while they’re in the hospital. 

What do you hope to accomplish this year on the track?
Break two minutes and compete at the Olympic Trials. That road to Rio, you know. All about that road to Rio!

OK, time for some fun, rapid-fire questions:

1. What’s your favorite post-race meal?
Pasta—chicken alfredo! I eat that the night before every race. 

2. If you had a day off from everyday responsibilities, how would you spend it?
I would get some sleep or get pampered, get my nails done. Things like that. 

3. What’s your favorite band or musical artist?
Rihanna and Chris Brown. 

4. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received?
It’s from my coach Chris Johnson. He tells me all the time to trust my fitness.

2018 DIII NCAA XC All-American Projections

Below are FloTrack's 2018 projections for the men's and women's DIII NCAA XC All-Americans:

Former NCAA Stars Make Their XC Predictions

NCAA XC: Dynasties On The Line

Watch the 2018 DI NCAA XC Championships LIVE on FloTrack, Saturday Nov. 17th!

DIII NCAA XC Women's Preview: Hopkins Hones In On Dynasty

Workout Wednesday: Johns Hopkins Men & Women

The 2018 DIII NCAA women’s cross country championships will feature a favorite in Johns Hopkins looking to expand on their recent dynasty, and a slew of challengers seeking to put an end to the Blue Jays’ dominance. Hopkins will race for their sixth title since 2012 on Saturday in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a run that only one other DIII women’s program in history has accomplished. It should be fascinating to watch it all unfold in brutal cross country conditions this weekend.

Deep Field Tries To Take Down New Mexico, Kelati Goes For First Title

NCAA XC: Dynasties On The Line

It didn’t take long for the narrative of the women’s NCAA cross country season to shift. New Mexico entered the fall with three of the nation’s best runners, high profile transfers, and a clear line to their third team title in four years. 

NCAA XC Champs Confidence Picks: NAU Three-Peats, McDonald Edges Fisher

The stakes are clear and the storylines are well established. 

NAU Goes For Three, Fisher/McDonald Finally Meet

2018 Men's DI NCAA XC Rewind

It was only minutes after they stepped off the track at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon, that Tyler Day and Matt Baxter were thinking of the fall. 

DIII NCAA XC Men's Preview: North Central Goes For No. 19

Workout Wednesday: North Central Crushes Mile Repeats

The winningest program in NCAA cross country history will look to add another title to their storied legacy as North Central College races for their record 19th DIII XC men's national championship on Saturday November 17, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The Cardinals will enter the meet as big favorites to take their third straight NCAA crown on the icy terrain of Lake Breeze Golf Course, but it won’t be easy as they battle experienced foes and freezing cold conditions. Another notch in North Central's hefty championship belt is at stake on race day, but it’s a notch they will really have to earn.

House Of Run: NCAA Sleepers And Storylines

Jason and Kevin discuss the sleepers, spoilers and storylines for Saturday’s NCAA Cross Country Championships. Can NAU and New Mexico continue their winning ways? Will the men’s race come down to Grant Fisher and Morgan McDonald?

DIII Regional Recap: Favorites Look Strong In NCAA Rehearsal

Workout Wednesday: North Central Crushes Mile Repeats

Below are the 32 men’s and women’s DIII NCAA cross country teams heading to nationals in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, this Saturday, November 17. We highlight the top stories from regionals underneath the NCAA fields.

PLAY NOW: 2018 FloXC Fantasy League

Introducing the season long FloXC fantasy league. A chance for you to compete against the FloTrack staff and be in the running to win a FloPRO subscription for a year! The final round is upon us where points are worth triple, meaning even if you have not played FloXC Fantasy this past season you still have a chance to win if you play this final round!