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Scholar athlete: NHS’s Williams has persevering spirit with athletics, academics

Natchez High School track athlete Shaylin Williams practices her hurdle technique after school on Wednesday afternoon. Williams, a freshman, is an all-A student. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Natchez High School track athlete Shaylin Williams practices her hurdle technique after school on Wednesday afternoon. Williams, a freshman, is an all-A student. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — One day, Natchez High School track coach Larry Wesley got fed up with freshman Shaylin Williams.

Wesley said he would rather Williams, who also cheers for the school, stick to her other sport.

“I got mad at her and told her not to come back out,” Wesley recalled. “She came back the next day, and I told her to go cheer, and she told me, ‘I want them to cheer for me.’ So I said, ‘OK.’”

And Wesley doesn’t regret letting her out of the doghouse. Williams’ attitude of never giving up has her poised to be a top performer in the hurdles by the time she’s a senior, Wesley said.

“She fights me on everything, but she’s never missed a practice for cross country and track,” Wesley said. “I was really impressed with that. She has perseverance — she never gives up. She’ll finish last sometimes and keep coming back.”

Williams said she wasn’t about to quit track, and she certainly wasn’t about to let a last-place finish get the best of her.

“I like being the best and making my mom (Sheila Bradley) proud,” Williams said.

That applies to grades, too. Williams is an all-A student, and she even got the opportunity to take the ACT in seventh grade, scoring an 18. Williams said her mother is her primary motivation with her schoolwork.

“She makes sure I know my grades come first and that I stay dedicated to track and everything else I do,” Williams said.

In addition to track, cross country and cheer, Williams is involved with a step group called the Diamond Princesses, and she also performs in the band. With so much on her plate, Williams said the best way to study is to do so during school hours.

“When I’m in class, I try to pay attention as much as I can so I won’t have as much to do at home,” Williams said. “Most of the time it works, because if you learn what you have to in class, you won’t have to study as much as everyone else.”

Wesley said he knew right away that Williams would do hurdles the first day she came out for track.

“When I first met her, I called her ‘Legs’ because of her long legs,” Wesley said. “I said she would jump hurdles, and she said, ‘No, I’m not,’ but she relented, and the rest is history. By the 12th grade, she should be pretty decent.”

Williams said running hurdles is difficult, especially with Wesley as her coach.

“After a long practice of running, he’ll make you run hurdles at the end, I guess so you can build up endurance,” Williams said.

Despite any disagreements with her coach, Williams said Wesley is a good person to learn from.

“He’s always yelling and making sure you’re running your best, and he makes sure you don’t stop, and he corrects you so you can get better,” she said.

Two goals for Williams include continuing to improve at running hurdles and eventually competing at the state level. She also said she would like to continue running track at college, possibly at Texas A&M.

“They have a good academics program and a good track program,” she said. “I want to be a geneticist.”

Williams is also the daughter of Norris Williams.

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