Lindsey Williams conquered her fears on the way to repeating as Times Leader Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
The Holy Redeemer senior found the expectations that went with being an established champion to be much different than her junior season when she emerged as the top female runner in the Wyoming Valley Conference.
“It was kind of terrifying, to be honest,” Williams said.
In 2016, Williams rose from a pack of quality runners to emerge as the Wyoming Valley Conference Meet and District 2 Class 2A champion.
“It’s definitely an easier position to be in because people aren’t really worried about who this person is who they’ve never really heard of before,” Williams said. “They’re more worried about last year’s stats and how this person did last year.
“ … It was more along the lines where I had a chance to prove myself without having to prove I’m up to anybody else’s expectations first.
“When nobody really knew who I was, it was a lot better.”
To conquer the mental side of this season’s tasks, Williams had a few extra conversations with Holy Redeemer coach Paul Hoda. Then, she went about producing a season very similar to the one before.
“She has confidence in herself and she’s a very hard worker,” Hoda said.
Williams opened the season by placing third in the Cliff Robbins Invitational for the second straight season. She was the top WVC runner in the race.
Then, she went undefeated in the WVC’s multi-team, cluster-meet schedule. She won all five races she entered – she missed one meet because of concussion concerns from a gym class injury – to make her 11-for-11 over the past two seasons.
While she was succeeding, Williams was still feeling the stress of her status in the conference.
“It was really nerve-wracking more than anything,” Williams said. “It can be more scary than rewarding.
“I came into the season like I normally do and I tried not to think about it, but sometimes it really gets to you when you seem to be the top person.”
In the postseason, Williams repeated her title in the Ed Narkiewicz WVC Meet, then finished a strong second behind Mia Bellucci of Scranton Prep, an eventual 11th-place state finisher. Her time of 20:03.47 and place in Class 2A were the best of any WVC runner in any of the three classes.
The list of medal-winning efforts ended for Williams in Hershey.
After placing 23rd as a junior, and earning one of the medals that goes along with a top-25 finish, Williams contracted a virus the week of this year’s state meet.
The illness hit its peak on Thursday, two days before the meet, when Williams left school as soon as she completed her favorite class. Feeling tired from lost sleep and dealing with cold-and-cough symptoms, Williams placed 86th at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Championships where she was one of just three WVC girls to break 21 minutes.
“I was just glad I got to go there and run rather than just stay home my senior year,” Williams said.
Williams hopes to keep running in college. She has made one recruiting visit to Flagler College, an NCAA Division II school in St. Augustine, Fla.
And, even after a year of facing the challenges of being the conference’s most-targeted runner, Williams is happy she made an early switch from sprinting to distance running and is looking forward to continuing the sport in the future.
“I’m just glad I did the sport I did, even if I don’t get to win all the time,” she said. “I’m glad I did it because of the people I got to meet and the experiences I got to have.”