By David Villavicencio
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – How do you go from relative obscurity to the top of your sport?
Ask Samantha Williams.
An All-American in the triple jump, Williams never could have imagined her track career reaching such great heights.
“Coming out of high school, I was a nobody,” Williams said. “It was really the faith my coaches had in me back in North Dakota that helped me. I was a transfer here from a Division II school. I didn’t know that everything would turn out this well.”
Thanks to hard work in the off-season, Williams has gotten her senior season off to a strong start. The senior won the triple jump at the Auburn Invitational and finished second in the long jump at the Kentucky Invitational.
“I definitely was looking forward to this because I knew all the hard work that I put in leading up to the season,” Williams said. “I did my summer workouts and really pushed myself in the fall. When everyone went home over Christmas break, I stayed here and worked. I’ve been preparing for success but how it started off has shocked me. I didn’t know it would be this way so soon.”
Williams’ track career began in Jamaica, where she was born and raised. She was always active in athletics, but her favorite sport was always track.
“I did swimming, track and I played net ball,” Williams said. “That’s not common here but it’s kind of like basketball and only girls play it. Track was always my preferred thing. Swimming was just something I did on the side. Track was always my dominant sport.”
Following the completion of her career at the St. Andrew High School for Girls in Kingston, Jamaica, Williams embarked on an interesting journey. She headed north to Bismarck, N.D., where she attended a small Division II school, University of Mary.
“I went to high school in Jamaica and then I came to the United States freshman year,” Williams said. “I actually came in as a sprinter/long jumper, but sprints just were not for me. I wasn’t fast enough. They tried, but that wasn’t my thing, so I focused on the long jump.”
Williams’ best event is the triple jump, but she may have never learned that without attending University of Mary.
“I went there and the jumps coach thought I should try triple jump,” Williams said. “I had never done it in my life but he got me to try it. In the first meet, I beat the standard for Division II and it all went on from there. Coincidentally, my better event at the time, the long jump, went downhill and triple jump went up.”
Williams, who still holds the triple jump record at University of Mary, wanted to challenge herself at a higher level. She decided to transfer to a Division I school, but she was not originally slated to join the Hurricanes.
“Originally, I was going to the University of Kentucky,” Williams said. “At the last minute, something came through and Miami was now a new option. I was trying to run away from the snow and get somewhere warm. Being from Jamaica, Miami is very similar, weather-wise. I figured it was a good decision to come here.”
The decision proved to be an excellent one, as Williams has earned All-American status while at Miami and elevated her ability to the point that she competed over the summer in the Under-23 trials for the Jamaican Track and Field team.
“When the opportunity came to try out for the Jamaican team,” Williams said, “I thought ‘why not?’ I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to because it was a really long season but I look forward to trying again this year for the World Championships.”
Beyond her success on the track, Williams is incredibly proud of her achievements in the classroom. An economics major, Williams is excited to be on course to graduate from Miami this spring.
“That is another big accomplishment,” Williams said. “Having an education from a university, especially a prestigious university, is such a big thing. Coming here was a big milestone. I am probably the third person in my family to go to university and I’ll be one of the few that actually completes it successfully. I’m looking forward to being a college graduate and what comes after it.”
After she completes her collegiate career, Williams hopes to continue working on the track as a professional. But she is not going to abandon academia completely, as she plans to get her MBA with a concentration in marketing, as well.
“I am excited about the season and how it can play into my career and future after college,” Williams said. “My plans are to go to grad school while I practice and try the professional/college balance. I really think there is somewhere for me to continue track. My main thing is grad school, but hopefully I can balance the two."
Maybe her biggest goal after completing her Hurricane career is representing her country in the Olympics. A few years ago, Williams never would have dreamed of potentially joining Jamaica’s rich track and field history. But now that she has had so much success, she is confident that she can find a place on the 2016 Olympic roster.
“Over the years, I’ve definitely built confidence in myself as I’ve seen myself succeed in the past,” Williams said. “I think that the 2016 Summer Olympics is a possibility. Being healthy and being strong and continuing to practice and keeping a positive mental attitude should help. If that’s God’s plan, I will go with it. If not, marketing hopefully.”