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. 
null
​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.

Zofia Dudek Outlasts Starliper In Thrilling Foot Locker Girls Race

Courtesy of MileSplit

Josh Methner Dominates Foot Locker Boys Race In 15:08

Courtesy of MileSplit

WATCH LIVE: 2019 Foot Locker Nationals

Watch the 2019 Foot Locker National XC Championships.

How Foot Locker All-Americans Fare In The NCAA

The top 15 finishers in Saturday’s Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships will have the title of high school “All-American” bestowed upon them. Despite Nike Cross Nationals' growth weakening the San Diego race in recent years, Foot Locker All-Americans still represent the elite of the elite high school prospects. Every NCAA coach in the country wants a runner who thrives at the most prestigious prep cross country race in the world.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

The Road Trip That Brought Vaporflys To A Cross Country Meet

The phone rang before Luc Larson even had a chance to turn on the lights. Larson, the general manager of the Heartbreak Hill Running Company store in Chicago, has a rule against answering calls before the store is open. But a few minutes before 11 A.M. on November 14th, he picked up. 

Who Draws The Best Runners? Foot Locker or NXN?

The Foot Locker National XC Championships have been around since 1979 (41 years) whereas the Nike Cross Nationals have only been around since 2004 (16 years). With two high school national cross country championships, the question remains which championship is more prestigious? Foot Locker has the legacy factor, however NXN has been able to draw not just the top teams in the nation, but top individuals on both the girls and boys side in recent years.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Debuting LIVE At 7PM CT: 'NAU: Running With The Boys,' Ep. 2

null

FULL EPISODE | SNEAK PEEK CLIP

Hundreds Of Nike Employees Protest Against Alberto Salazar

Hundreds of Nike employees on Monday demonstrated on the company’s campus in Beaverton, Oregon, against a rededication of the Alberto Salazar Building, according to a report by Willamette Week.

Athing Mu Commits To Texas A&M

Article courtesy of MileSplit. Check out their full recruiting coverage.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

How NCAA Athletes Fared At The 2019 European XC Championships

The NCAA was well-represented on Sunday at the 2019 SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon, Portugal. Here is where every U.S.-based collegiate athlete finished in their respective races: