Trinity’s Ashleigh Williams takes home state title as eighth-grader

Published 12:08 am Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ben hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Trinity Episcopal’s Ashleigh Williams, 14, won the MAIS-AA state championship in discus as an eighth-grader this year with her throw of 100 feet-11 inches. Williams has only been a discus thrower for two years.

NATCHEZ — Trinity Episcopal eighth-grader Ashleigh Williams had no idea how good she could be the first time she picked up a discus.

“I started discus last year,” Williams said. “I had no clue what I was doing.”

But with the help of her coach, Michael Petty, Williams picked up the sport quickly.

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Williams shows off her state championship medal.

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“He had faith in me, and the whole time he said if I work hard enough I can do it,” Williams said.

And in just two years, Williams’ hard work paid off in the form of a state championship title.

Williams, 14, started the season on the junior varsity track and field team and cruised to a district championship — the highest achievement a junior varsity player can earn. She then was bumped up to the varsity level, and started competing against girls much older than her.

“I was against seniors and juniors,” Williams said. “I knew some of them, and they couldn’t believe how far I’ve gotten.”

Williams said one girl was so impressed by her throws that she thought of taking Williams out of the contest.

“She said, ‘Would you be OK if I broke your arm?’” Williams said.

Williams said she set a personal goal heading into the state championship meet, but she did not have aspirations of winning.

“I wanted to throw over 100 feet,” she said. “And on my third throw I threw 100 feet, 11 inches.”

Williams said that was the best throw she ever had, and it eventually was good enough to easily win the state championship.

The 100-foot throw gave her an immediate sense of accomplishment, she said, but it wasn’t until much later that the thrill of being a state champion hit her.

“It boosted my confidence, but it hadn’t hit me yet that I had won,” she said. “It hit me when I stood up on the pedestal.”

Williams said she has come a long way from a seventh-grader who had never picked up a discus to an eighth-grader earning a state championship medal.

“It was difficult when I first started,” she said. “I just did a regular throw then with no rotation and made it to South State.”

Williams said Petty taught her the mechanics of the throw, and now her sights are set on repeating for the next few years and setting a state record.

“I want to keep working hard to try to reach my goal of 149 feet,” she said.

The current state record is 148 feet and 10 inches.

Williams said she will spend the summer working out and playing basketball and softball.

Williams said keeping up with all her sports catches up to her sometimes.

“It’s hard trying to juggle them all and keep up with school work, but I keep my grades up,” she said.

Williams said she believes that winning the state title at such a young age may have put some added pressure on her for the next few years.

“It might be difficult if the competition gets a lot better,” she said.

But she said she will continue to work hard and push to try to achieve her personal goals and hope those are good enough to win more state championships.

Williams is the daughter of Sundra and Gerald Williams.