``I still can't believe it,'' Williams said yesterday while he prepared for today's Meet of Champions, which begins at 4 p.m. in South Plainfield. ``I'm still talking like I ran a 52.6 in the intermediates. Some kids can't even run the 400 that fast. My mom's like, `That's fast.' And I'm like, `I know, but this is me.' ''
Perhaps he should say, ``This is the new me.''
Williams has redefined himself and his goals in the last month. He is still the affable, mild-mannered 18-year-old he was at the start of the season, but with his time dropping fast, his stock is soaring.
He has gone from getting nibbles from Division II and III college programs to garnering serious interest from some of the better Division I teams around.
And now, he's starting to think even bigger.
``I started asking some of my friends if they thought I could run in the Olympics,'' Williams said. ``They all say that I have to make sure I can get them tickets. That's one of the ultimate goals. After I break one goal, I set a new one. And that's the one I just added. That's the ultimate goal.''
Williams is eclipsing goals with amazing speed. He entered the season with a personal best of 56.4 seconds in the 400 intermediate hurdles. At the South Jersey Carnival, he shaved two seconds off that, finishing second to Pleasantville junior Devon Matthews in 54.5 seconds. ``But I really wanted to get the school record,'' he said.
Enough said. At the Burlington County Championships a week later, he won in 53.7 seconds, a school record. At the sectional meet, he wanted to qualify in three events. He did. He was second in both hurdles and third in the 400.
And then, at the state meet, he was determined to medal. A year ago, he finished seventh in the high hurdles, which drove him all summer to get back to the state meet and finish in the top six to earn a medal.
When he got to South Plainfield for the Group 2 state meet, he figured he could win the intermediate hurdles and finish second in the high hurdles and third in the 400. He was disappointed with his sixth-place finish in the 400, but more than made up for it by winning both hurdles events.
Williams actually tied Matthews, who had beaten him at the sectional meet, in the intermediates. Their time of 52.62 was by far the fastest in any group. Camden's all-American Danyne Brown was nearly a full second slower, winning over a stacked Group 3 field in 53.57 seconds.
``I saw the time and I was like `Wow,' '' Williams said. ``I beat Danyne Brown's time. I've read a lot about him, and I know how good he is.''
While Williams, who was born in Trinidad and lived there until he was 8, might be struggling to believe he has joined the elite, his coach, Lou Stickel, is taking it all in stride.
``Our problem is we don't run indoor track, so it's just taken him a little longer to find his form,'' Stickel said. ``He plays basketball and he's in the band, so he had other things going and it just took him time for him to find his form.''
And now that he's found it, Stickel is watching Williams take off. He had no doubts he could do it and he has few that Williams won't continue to soar.
``He's very fresh, and that's one thing to his advantage,'' Stickel said. ``He's not overworked. He's not tired. He's peaking right now, both physically and mentally.''
Williams is ready to put in the time that those he's catching up to - and passing - have put in all along. He knows his lofty goals will require more work than he has put in thus far. But, he said, as long as it's fun, he wants to go as far up the college ranks as he can.
``Whatever school gets this kid is getting a real gem,'' Stickel said. ``They're not only getting a great athlete. But they're getting one heck of a kid. He's open. He's honest. He's intelligent. He's friendly. He's in the honors society here and in the band. He's just a great, great kid.
``The only thing bad about him is that he's a senior. I'm going to miss him like I'd miss my own son.''
Stickel will get one last chance to watch Williams run in Delran's brown and yellow. Williams can run in both hurdles and the 400 at today's Meet of Champions, but will likely go for the title only in the 400 intermediate hurdles.
``If I were to guarantee a race, that's a lot of extra pressure and that's not me,'' Williams said. ``I just want to have fun.''