Senior sprinter Aaron Williams was surrounded by outstanding talent at Meade in past years, including 2008 grad and Clemson freshman Justin Murdock. This season has been Williams' time in the spotlight.
On Jan. 31, Williams led the Mustangs to their fourth straight Anne Arundel County championship, taking home gold medals in the 55 and 300 meters, along with the 800- and 1600-meter relays. His first county title was in the 55, when he came across in 35.6 seconds to edge South River's Lamar Rogers by one one-hundredth of a second. Williams, in his third season of indoor track, also played four years of varsity football as a running back, safety and linebacker. He will compete in his fourth season of outdoor track in the spring.
The youngest of seven siblings (five sisters, one brother), Williams said that his strong family support has been important in his success. He is undecided on a college, but he wants to run track and study criminal justice in hopes of one day becoming a government lawyer in the Air Force. Williams is active at his church, serving as an usher, singing in the choir and playing piano. He is a mentor in the Boys and Girls Club.
Your first individual county championship came in the 55 by one one-hundredth of a second. What was that like?
It was very close, by an eyelash is what my Dad said after watching the film over and over again. In the finals, I tried to get out as hard as I could and then have a good finish. And then I got the good lean-in. I saw that I edged him by a little bit, but I didn't want to like start clapping right then and there because I didn't know if I won or not. So I just ran all the way to the board and stayed there. I prayed real quick, hoping I won, and then they called my name up and I just jumped up and started shouting because I really wanted it.
The night before the county championships, you talked with Justin Murdock. What did he tell you?
He just told me I could do it. He basically said that I had to get cocky and just tell myself I could do it. If I didn't believe in myself, then nobody else would believe in me. So it was just about knowing I can do it and going out and doing it.
How do you get ready for a race?
Usually I put on my iPod and listen to Gospel music. My mom and dad tell me I can do anything with God. So I listen to gospel - the fast-beat stuff and then the slow stuff to keep me calm and focused on the race. And then I just think about the finish. I don't think about the start because I know it's coming down to the finish. So I think "keep my knees up, keep breathing."
After taking the graduation hits from last year, did the team feel any added pressure to repeat as county champions?
There was a lot of pressure. Everybody was thinking that Chesapeake was going to win this year and that Meade had nothing left because the big four left last year. Before counties, the boys team all met, and we told each other that no matter what, we're not going to let each other down, that each and everyone of us are going to go out there and do whatever we had to do to win. We just had to make sure we had to stay together as a family.
What's it like being the youngest of seven children?
There's some pressure. One of my sisters [1992 grad Chelsea Williams] ran track here, and she had the record in the 100, 200 and 400. And the others all did something and excelled at something different, so I wanted to make a name for myself and show them I could excel at something, too.
How did your name come up at church the Sunday after the county championships?
They talked about what I accomplished, and now we're trying to get kids involved in track and field - having them join some rec leagues. After they saw my medals, they wanted to go out there and run track.
How important is it to be a good role model?
It's really important. I have 13 nieces and nephews, and they all look up to me. When I was growing up, I did a lot of sports - basketball, football, track, tennis, baseball, soccer - just about everything. I tried it all. So they look at Uncle Aaron, and whatever I do, they want to try it, too. So far, they have all been doing really well.
What things do you do as mentor with the Boys and Girls Club?
We take them out on camping trips, hikes and stuff like that. Most of them live in bad communities, so we want to show them there's more than just standing on a corner and doing nothing. We try to encourage them to get involved in sports, find friends that way and do something positive with their lives instead of getting into trouble.
What are your thoughts on our new president, Barack Obama?
It's nice. I like the change. It was time for a change. That really motivated me a lot, too, because when I first heard about Barack Obama becoming the president, I was like: "Oh wow, it's really happening." I never thought I would see the day. My grandmother talked about how the day would come, and the day he was elected, she cried, my grandfather cried, my mom cried.
If you could ask him one question, what would it be?
I'd ask him where did he find the courage to do it.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
It came from my dad because we have a lot of talks. It would be whatever I do, be the best at it. After every conversation we have and after everything I do, he says that. Like after running the 55, he came down there, hugged me and told me you were the best at it. So it sticks with me. I write it on my shoes, on my bag, and there's a big poster in my room that I smack every time I leave that says: "Be the best at it."