CROSS COUNTRY: Teenager Williams has chance to be the best of British
Emily Williams is already the queen of England when it comes to cross-country running in her age-group - and now she is going all out to become the best of British.
The Northampton School for Girls pupil is still pinching herself after she saw off the country’s finest to win the Junior Girls’ English Schools National cross-country championships.
The year nine student improved on her 64th-place finish when a year younger 12 months earlier to storm to victory at Wollaton Park in Nottingham, completing the 3.5km course in 12 minutes 38 seconds, three seconds faster than the second-placed girl, Olivia Mason from Cumbria.
The win saw Williams, who is 14, win the gold medal as well as a place in the four-strong England team to compete in this Saturday’s Home Countries International in Falkirk in Scotland.
There, Williams will make her international debut and be part of the England team to take on the best from Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
It is a big weekend for the Northampton teenager who started out at Rugby & Northampton AC, but now runs for the Kettering Town Harriers Athletics Club.
But Williams isn’t feeling any pressure, and she is determined to simply enjoy her first taste of international running - and her first trip to Scotland!
“I just want to do the best I can, because I would never have thought I could come first in the English schools, let alone become an international,” said Williams.
“I just want to enjoy myself and enjoy the experience as I have never been to Scotland.”
By winning the English title, Williams is in good company as it is a race that was won in 1992 by Paula Radcliffe, while another previous winner, Kate Avery, is a European silver medalist, and she was on hand to dish out the prizes in Nottingham. Williams admits that running is something that has come naturally to her, but she still has to put in the hours of training, and she said: “I have always enjoyed running, I used to run around the playground at school on my own!
“The training is still hard work though, and you have to keep pushing yourself in training, and when you need that extra in a race.
“My coach says it’s like putting money into a bank, and then taking some out when you need it.”
Williams is coached at Kettering Harriers by Shane Smith, who she cites as a big inspiration, and it’s not just in cross-country where she excels.
“I do the 800m and 1500m on the track as well, and I got the English Schools time for the 1500, but I chose the 800 because I like that event,” said Williams.
“I really enjoy cross-country, but I like them both a lot.”
Looking back on her title-winning performance, Williams admits it exceeded her expectations.
“I was hoping to finish top 10, but I was thinking more realistically at a top 20,” she said.
“My coach thought I could come top five, and when I finished first it was amazing.
“The last 250m, I was quite tired but not that tired, and none of the girls were picking up the pace that early, so I thought I might as well and see what happens.
“I passed the two girls in front of me, which meant I was second, and there was one more girl and I overtook her.
“It was a downhill finish, which was lovely - and my mum keeps showing the video to everybody!”
Louise Sharp is part of the PE department at NSG, which is based in Spinney Hill, and is also on the Northants schools athletics coaching and management team, and she admits it was an emotional moment when Williams won.
“I was so proud and it was amazing,” she said. “We all lost our voices from screaming so much, watching Emily come down to the finish.
“We just went wild when she won, and the hours of work I and the other managers put in to do the County cross-country and athletics, it is all made worthwile for moments like that.
“To be someone from my own school was brilliant, and she is just a fantastic runner. She makes it look too easy.
“I am hoping she will do well this weekend, and she certainly stands a good chance.”
As for Williams, she is just excited and proud to be able to show off her new England tracksuit.
She said: “You get the England tracksuit if you finish top eight, and I really wanted that!
“I wanted to go to Scotland to race as well, and I got it by quite a bit so I was really happy. Before the English Schools race nobody knew who I was, and after the race they were saying ‘who is she?’
Well, they won’t be saying that now, will they?