14-y-o USA-based Briana Williams in Carifta hunt
When the starter’s gun for the 2017 Carifta Trials goes off in Jamaica today, there will be at least one unfamiliar face to most Jamaican fans as the high school girls line up to represent the sprint capital in the girls U-18 100m and 200m.
Travelling from Miramar, Florida, to Kingston this week is 14-year-old Briana Williams — the fifth fastest high school girl (11.78 seconds) and second-fastest ninth grader in Florida at the 100m for 2017. In the 200m, she is ranked 15th with a time of 24.73 and she has a personal best of 24.46.
Overall, Briana is ranked 34th in the US at 200m and 17th at 100m.
"I have a pretty good chance since I have been running with seniors so much. I feel fit and ready and I am very happy with the time I did last Saturday at the Spartan Games. I want to run for Jamaica and represent my mom’s home country," she said with a smile.
Briana, who is the daughter of Jamaican mother Sharon Simpson and the late American Steven Williams, has the backing of her coach, four-time Olympic medal winner and NBC’s track and field analyst, Ato Boldon.
"My athletes are trained to be really ready in June, but with Briana’s will power and her history of winning, I would be surprised if she is not counted among the Jamaicans going to Curacao in April," he said.
Last Saturday Briana placed third in the 100m in 11.78 seconds (personal best) and won her 200m heat in 24.73 seconds at the Spartan Invitational in Miami. The athletes ahead of her, however, were all seniors.
It is performances like these that give her mom the confidence that she will do well in Jamaica and beyond.
"Briana likes these type of challenges and normally she does well under pressure," said Simpson.
Briana opted out of the 200m final last Saturday due to tightness in her hamstring to ensure that she is fit for the Carifta trials.
Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), "Briana has always been involved in anything that was active and required burning energy".
"At the age of three, she started ballet and tap dance before going on to gymnastics and tennis," said Briana’s mother. Then at age eight, she was said to have asked her mom if she could "run" probably because "I was always watching track and field", admitted Simpson.
Over the last six years, Briana has done an amazing job on the track and she has the medals and accolades to show for it. She has a collection of over 100 medals, three-quarters of which are gold.
Her best year was in 2012 when she lost only one race and took home 23 gold medals. In 2015, she was the best sprinter in the USA in her age group and the city of Miramar gave her the keys to the city and proclaimed September 9, the Briana Williams day.
Mayor Wayne Messam, who granted the proclamation, said: "If there is anyone who has the potential and deserves to represent her country, it is Briana. We are very proud of her achievements and one day she will grace the podium with an Olympic medal somewhere," he said.
Brianna also has multiple Olympic and World champion medallist Sanya Richards-Ross in her corner. Speaking from her home in Austin, Texas, the Jamaican-born who represents the USA, said Briana’s work ethic, drive and desire to win remind her of herself when she was that age.
"She also has tremendous talent and potential, and with the awesome support of Ato and her mom, she has the right ingredients to be successful," the 400m champion said.
For Briana to make Jamaica’s team, she needs to be one of three finishers in 100m and 200m today and tomorrow, respectively. If time was the only condition to qualify, she currently has the second fastest time among Jamaican girls in the 100m for 2017 and would rank eighth in the 200m.