After making the state meet and being named the Telegram’s All-Area Cross Country Runner of the Year as a freshman, the expectations started to follow Nash Central’s Michae’la Williams everywhere.
But with each passing year and each state meet entry and All-Area nod, Williams kept meeting those expectations. On Wednesday, she capped her career with the perfect ending – a scholarship to Gardner-Webb.
All those outside expectations were easy for her to accomplish.
In the end, they were her own as well.
“I did what everybody wanted me to do, and I did what I wanted to do, not based on what they wanted,” Williams said. “It was just me. They wanted what I wanted, so I guess you could say we all did it together.”
Williams, who made the state meet all four years at Nash Central and set multiple school records along the way, chose Gardner-Webb over interest from Louisburg College, Barton College, Bethany Lutheran and UNC-Wilmington. While she thought about attending a big school, her visit to Gardner-Webb – and the three others than followed in the past year – were too much to pass up.
“I’m official now,” said Williams, who added that the small campus at Gardner-Webb felt like home. “I used to say that I was going, but now, it’s official official. It’s done and over. I can’t go anywhere else. I don’t want to go anywhere else. I’m going where I want to go.”
Williams received a partial scholarship from the school, but along with the academic scholarship she also received, Williams has accounted for the vast majority of her tuition.
While the fit seems perfect, the better match is Williams’ dedication.
Last year, Williams missed almost half of the track season because of a right-knee injury. The former 75-pound freshman worked her way back to the course and eventually became the leader for the Bulldogs under first-year coach Marshall Leonard.
“She’s the type of person that you like having on your team because she enjoys the other parts of running, instead of just racing,” said Leonard, who had been an assistant since the school opened. “She enjoys the practices. That’s something you need with any sport. You want to have somebody that enjoys all parts of the sport.”
Williams wanted to go to the state meet every year of her high school career. And she did. She wanted to be a four-time All-Area runner of the year. She accomplished that feat as well.
Although she said each of those accomplishments, once completed, was enough to make her cry or the culmination of years of hard work, the conclusion of her high school career was the best part of it all.
“It was perfect,” Williams said. “I was just perfect. This is like a dream come true.”