By Tim Huebsch, UBC
After a successful 2013 track season, Jack Williams wasted no time in putting in a summer of training that has allowed him to reach the next level in his athletics. In his first race of the season, the third-year cross-country runner ran himself into the UBC history books. Jack bested the previous top time set in 2006 by Shane Carlos from the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle, Washington by nine seconds, recording a time of 24:46.35, joining the elusive “sub 25 minute club.” The time was a 31-second improvement over his previous best.
“I took a lengthy break after a long but successful track season and came back slowly just working on my mileage and feeling comfortable week in and week out. I began introducing some longer intervals with more turnover in the weeks leading up to training camp, with an eye on always staying within myself.”
Jack, a kinesiology major, also attributes his early-season success to the addition of cross training to his program, a key element in staying healthy and improving fitness while limiting the sheer impact that running has on the body.
“I think the deciding factor that allowed me to reach this type of fitness, a level I've never before been able to reach before, has been the combination of handling more mileage, really focusing on some solid cross training in the pool, and improved core strength.”
For his performance at the 2013 Sundodger Invitational, Jack was recognized as the Athlete of the Week and most recently, Athlete of the Month voted on by the Thunderbird Athletic Council, a group of student-athlete representatives who's mission is to develop a stronger sense of athletic pride within the UBC community.
Jack is one of the most experienced athletes on the relatively young Thunderbirds squad having represented the team at numerous national championships and earning All-American Honors on the track in 2013, thanks to a sixth place finish in the 1,500m. This experience is particularly vital to the team as this year's squad has quite a different look compared to the 2012 version, after losing three of the team's top seven scorers from last season.
The 'Birds were having none of that though, as displayed in the team's season opener, coming away with team silver and running one of the fastest cumulative times the team has run within the last decade. Jack and a plethora of third and fourth-year athletes filled the void from last year and left no question marks in regards to the teams depth and potential this season.
Jack believes that a podium finish at the 2013 NAIA Cross Country Championships in late November is within grasp, especially considering the men's squad is currently ranked No. 4 overall. The 2013 edition is set for November 23rd in Lawrence, Kansas. Individuals goals typically come secondary in cross-country but Jack is seeking his first All-American honor in XC.
“Individual goals for this cross-country season are to finish top three at Regionals and get All-American status [top 30 overall] at the NAIA Cross Country Championships. The team goals for the fall season are to stay competitive and continually progress for a top three spot at nationals. As far as team potential is concerned, this feat is very doable and not out of the question in the slightest.”
The adversity that Jack has had to endure early in his career make his more recent accomplishments all that more impressive. Williams was the victim of a car accident in early 2008 that left him with a number of broken bones and a long road to recovery.
“The accident I was involved in really took its toll on me mentally and physically. I was always very competitive and successful at any sport I participated it and never had problems with handling the workloads from sports including rugby, soccer, and running.”
Only two years removed, Jack was back running competitively capturing the bronze medal at 2010 BC High School Cross Country Championships. He would continue his impressive comeback at the 2011 BC High School Track and Field Championships winning the 3,000m & capturing silver in the 1500m.
Unfortunately, a string of injuries limited his initial success upon being recruited to UBC. Weeks, months, and years of hard-work and training have paid off in 2013, however, as Jack has set a personal best in every event on the track from the 800m up to the 3,000m as well as all-time bests over the 8km distance raced throughout the cross country season.
“To this day I am still combatting old injuries and weaknesses that will always have some presence in my body. My journey, through rehabilitation, back into competitive running has served as a constant reminder that I have to work hard to stay healthy.”
As far as influences, Jacks parents, Lynn, a bronze medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in the 3,000m, and Paul, a three-time Olympian and former Canadian record holder in a multitude of distances, encouraged him every step of the way giving him the opportunity to play any sport he wished.
“My parents supported me to do all kind of sports before I chose to focus on running, which I ultimately decided on my own. I wanted to play soccer professionally as a young lad – that was my future goal when I was young. Yet, I always ended up coming back to running, even after my accident.”
“I have come to respect my parents even more having developed a greater understanding of some of the feats they have accomplished and I can appreciate that some of their hard work may or may not have been passed down to me and the rest of my siblings. They are an inspiration to everyone in the Canadian running community.”
When asked what his long-term goals were in athletics, Jack prefers to focus on the short-term seasonal goals and the long-term goals will come secondary if he's able to keep consistent and healthy.
“Right now my main focus is to be able to compete competitively in the NAIA system for UBC, which I was unable to do in my first year after a string of injuries. Last year I got my first taste of being a proud Thunderbird by finishing sixth in the 1500m final when my initial goal was merely to make the final in the first place.”
The challenging aspect of athletics is not just being fit, but being able to display that fitness on any given day with the ability to advance through the initial heats and rounds with as little effort as possible. In the final, anything can happen, especially in the sport of track and field where the difference between first and fifth can be merely tenths of a second. Jack calculated his races perfectly, conserving energy through the heats and leaving it all on the line in the final, contributing key points for the overall team scoring.
As far as All-American status is concerned, Jack jokes that UBC is often overlooked because it remains the only institution in the NAIA situated outside the United States.
“All American has a nice ring to it – especially to a Canadian boy who has been living in igloos and commuting on polar bears north of the border!!! I can't say as to how far I will make it as a runner but only time will tell and I am along for the ride!”