Briana Willliams Ready For Redemption At CARIFTA Games

By MileSplit's Cory Mull

Briana Williams was 70 meters into the U18 girls 100m finals at the CARIFTA Games last year thinking about what it would be like to be known as a Jamaican champion.

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But that was before she went from first to third in a matter of seconds, watching as fellow teammate, Jamaica's Kevona Davis, and Antigua's Joella Lloyd, crossed the line in 11.62 (-1.6) and 11.67 (-1.6) seconds, respectively.

Williams followed in 11.80. 

Since then, she's had plenty of time to think about that moment—and to endure teasing from her teammates and coach Ato Boldon. 

But it's inspired Williams, who just turned 16 on March 21, to return to CARIFTA this weekend at Thomas Robinson Stadium in the Bahamas to win the title she believed she should have won last year.

She'll also compete in the 200m. 

A year ago, Williams, an Oakland Park Northeast (FL) High sophomore, exploded out of the blocks to take command of a race that featured one of Jamaica's top rising talents in Davis, who ran wind-legal marks of 11.16 and 22.72 in the 100m and 200m last week. Davis, though, has moved up to the U20 division.

That may give Williams her first opportunity to earn a title, and it could be a fourth gold medal for Boldon as a coach after seeing Trinidad & Tobago sprinter Khalifa St. Fort win three gold medals over her time at CARIFTA over the past five seasons.

Williams, who will also be working toward qualifying for the world junior championships in Finland this summer as a part of Jamaica's youth team, is one of 78 members of Jamaica's squad as it travels to Nassau, Bahamas.

She was the youngest member of the team last year, her first foray at the annual event which is considered a rite of passage for Caribbean athletes. And while it's still a new experience, CARIFTA is becoming an important moment for Williams.

"With Briana, she probably knows more about the CARIFTA games then I do," said Boldon, a former Olympian for Trinidad & Tobago and current NBC track and field analyst. "Briana's mother is Jamaican. She grew up going to Jamaica every summer or spring break."

But Williams is quickly becoming one of the top rising talents in high school sprinting. And that is carrying over to the Jamaican track and field community, which has already begun to take notice.

Boldon has very carefully added speed endurance to Williams over the start of the 2018 season, placing the athlete in a 300m (38.14) on February 10 and a 400m (57.46) on February 3.

Williams' 200m time has already dropped to an all-conditions mark and U.S. No. 2 time of 23.24 (+2.4), while she set a 100m world age group record for 15-year-olds—just a few days before her birthday—on March 17 at the Bob Hayes Invitational, producing a time of 11.13 (+1.7) to score the top time in the nation.

Boldon believes Williams is on pace to achieve even greater heights, though. 

"I've never seen someone more ready to run fast in a high school season," he said. "She's going to have a very special 100 meter season when it's all said and done."

The all-time national high school record still stands at 10.98 seconds and was last accomplished in 2015 by Candace Hill, a sophomore in Colorado at the time. 

Williams trains daily in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area with Boldon and her Born 2 Do It teammates like St. Fort.

"When she comes back to practice every day, she has to run against Khalifa," Boldon said. "She doesn't win every time." 

Perhaps that internal competition will make Williams one of the top sprinters in the country sooner rather than later. 

A year ago, she rested just three days from the CARIFTA Games before she had to qualify for the Florida state championships at a local district meet. This time, however, she'll have a few more days to rest before heading to districts on April 10. 

Williams will no doubt look to race fast and go for her biggest time yet, but in doing so, she will also vie for her first gold medal at a Caribbean youth championship. 

"She's come back very focused," Boldon said. "She had a practice today. I'm telling you, if you're betting against Briana Williams of Northeast High not running 11.13, I hope you're not betting with your own money."

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