When All-Metro Bernard Williams toes the line to start a race, the 5-foot-11 Carver sprinter is preparing to carry more than just the weight of his chiseled 170-pound frame across the finish line.
"I think about all of the purposes for which I'm running, and that sort of puts me in a zone where I can get the job done," said Williams, 19, a four-event gold medalist at last year's 3A state tournament. "I'm running for my mother, Angela, and all the people who helped me get through past struggles to the point where I've been successful."
Indirectly, that includes the police officer who "jacked me up when I talked back to him" at a Safeway store, where, four years ago, Williams and some friends were making trouble. It also includes the Southwestern High basketball coach who cut him from the team his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Those experiences have shaped Williams, and helped him discover his track talents as a sophomore at Southwestern before transferring to Carver for his junior season.
"I used to be a bad decision-maker, but some of the things I've been through, they helped me realize what directions I want to go in," said Williams, who has visited the University of Tennessee and is considering scholarship offers from other Division I programs.
Williams has a 2.7 grade-point average and is closing in on the corresponding 820 SAT score that is required by the NCAA to be eligible to run track as a college freshman. He studies for the SAT, which he'll take for the fourth time on May 3, about 1 1/2 hours a day.
Last season, Williams had a workhorse of a year, winning the Baltimore City, region and 3A state crowns in both the 100 and 200 meters, and also anchoring the Bears' 400- and 800- relay teams to titles in each of those three meets. In the 400, the Bears set a 3A meet state record by finishing in 42.25 seconds -- the fastest time of the day among all four school-size classifications.
Williams is unbeaten at Carver in the outdoor 200 since he began running it last season, and hasn't lost in the 100 since two years ago when, as a Southwestern sophomore, he was runner-up at the city meet to Carver's Andre Falcon.
Williams ran a personal-best in both the 100 (10.36 seconds) and the 200 (21.0) while running with Ed Waters' Track Club last summer. But after a setback at the Junior Olympics in August, where Williams finished a disappointing eighth in the 100 among some of the nation's best, he suffered a dose of humility that helped him to refocus yet again.
"I work out harder, doing about 200 push-ups a night. And I've changed my diet to include a lot of carbohydrates and potassium, so I get the most out of myself," said Williams, who also has taken to modeling himself after his idol, Canada's Donovan Bailey, a 1997 Olympic Gold medalist in the 100.
"He's [Bailey] only been competing for a short time, like me, and he's a very humble guy who doesn't talk down his opponents," Wiilliams said. "But he's also got a lot of ambition, which I like. I've taken him on as my hero."
The change was evident in Williams during this past winter's indoor track season, where he repeated as state champ in both the 55 and 300 meters. He capped the year with an excellent effort at the High School Nationals, finishing second in the 60-meter event, and fifth at 200 meters.
Williams' accomplishments were recognized in the May edition of Track and Field News, which ranks him second in the 60, and fifth in the 200.
Carver coach Walter Cole, in his 36th season, has seen "plenty of track talent in my time, but I've never seen this kind of speed."
"This kid's built like a pure sprinter -- tremendous abs and quads. I mean he's just chiseled," said Cole. "He's a pretty fierce competitor with an excellent ability to get himself up for a race. Beforehand, he kind of goes off to himself and gets really quiet, thinks about what he's got to do. Sometimes, my assistant, Mike Scribner, worries about him. But I tell him, 'He'll be O.K.' "
Then Williams takes the track and carries all those past memories across the finish line in victory.
Pub Date: 4/13/97