Oct. 24, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
After a break-through season last spring, South Carolina senior high jumper Tye Williams is doing everything he can to elevate himself into a national championship contender in his final year with the Gamecocks.
“This year my goal is to go out there and win it,” Williams said. “Last year, I left happy because I did better than I ever had done since I’ve been here. I broke a school record, but I still had a sour taste in my mouth because I didn’t win. That’s every college athlete’s goal – to go out there and win an NCAA Championship. My goal is to prepare to win this thing.
“If you want to be the best in your sport, you have to do what the others don’t want to do. Whatever the coaches throw at me, there is never a day where I think that I don’t feel like doing this today. Whatever they tell me to do, I’m going to go at it with my full potential so it will pay off when it matters the most.”
Williams has come a long way in his track and field career, which has its roots in simply having fun as a child in the small town of Clyo, Ga.
“There was the big sawdust pile we used to run up and down,” Williams said. “A lot people think that’s why I got so fast. We used to race to see who could get up there the fastest. It’s like 25 feet high, and it’s on a steep incline. I was told there used to be a factory there a long time ago, and it exploded and all that’s left is that big ol’ sawdust pile.”
Taking part in track began as a way to simply stay in shape for other sports.
“I was a big-time recruit in football and basketball,” Williams said. “I used to just do track to stay in shape. I ended up trying all types of events, including high jump. I’m a visual learner, so I would watch YouTube videos all the time to see how they were doing it. I was like two inches off the school record my first year. The next year, by the time the state meet came, I jumped 6-feet, 6-inches, and broke the record. My junior year, I think I jumped 6-8 two weeks in a row. Then at a meet in Statesboro, I saw where Champ Bailey had a record of around 6-9. I went for it, and ended up jumping 6-10 that day. That’s when all of these colleges started contacting me for track.”
Williams chose to be a Gamecock, and he had to prove himself all over again.
“I was used to winning all the time in high school,” Williams said. “My first two years here, I was just getting busted on the track. That was a hurtful feeling. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, so I just trusted in what my coaches were telling me. I didn’t make NCAA regionals my first two years. I didn’t make nationals my first two years. It was time for a change. Since then, I’ve just been training and doing everything I have to do to get better.”
I’m out here to win and break records.
Among the keys to his success is the bond he developed with his event coach, assistant coach Delethea Quarles.
“She believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself,” Williams said. “That really sparked a relationship that is unbreakable. Once I started believing in myself, because of her, everything is just great and it brought my confidence level back to where it was in high school. I used to get nervous about clearing 7-2, but now when it comes up, I just say ‘OK Tye, let’s just do this and get to the money-bars.’”
After a good showing early in the indoor season last spring, Williams broke through in the outdoor season by winning the Weems Baskin Invitational, the USC Open and the prestigious Penn Relays where he set a school record by clearing 7-feet, 4 ½ inches. He later earned the bronze medal in his event at the SEC Outdoor Championships and would earn First Team All-America honors at the NCAA Championships after finishing fourth. There may not be any sawdust piles to train on at South Carolina, but there are plenty of ways to train.
“We’ve got that big hill right there,” Williams laughed while pointing at the slope outside of the Rice Athletics Center. “That’s a little more extreme than the sawdust pile. It’s very beneficial.”
As his career continues to grow, Williams is determined to work harder in order to soar higher.
“The high jump is a very technical event,” Williams said. “I’m just working with my coach all the time. Once you understand the event better, you just believe in everything the coach tells you, and you believe in yourself. That makes everything easier. You can then just critique the small things that you’re doing wrong, and that makes the biggest difference.
“You have to keep your mindset positive. You can’t let anything negative get to you. Even if you do have a small slump, you’ll get right back out of it.”
With all of the hard work, the thrill of the event drives him.
“I love it when there’s a high bar and everyone is clapping,” Williams said. “All eyes are on you. It’s like a spotlight effect. You set your penultimate step up really good, and you know you’re going to fly. You get those last three steps, and you cross your body perfectly every time, and you get that power through the ground, you hold your knee drive, and then I just watch myself rise up. I don’t drop my head back until I see that I’m high enough over the bar.
“I just a get a thrill about being up there. You’re upside down, and when you clear it, the crowd just goes ‘WAAAAAAHHHHH!’ It’s the perfect feeling.”
While there is plenty of work to be done between now and next spring, Williams can’t wait for his next opportunity to jump.
“The most fun thing about what I do is winning,” Williams said. “I’m out here to win and break records. Seven-four was a good height, but I know I can go a lot higher because I cleared that thing by two or three inches. I always told my mom that I’m going to go to the Olympics one day, and that I’m going to represent the United States. I’m still trying to prove myself.
“The biggest challenge I have in achieving my goal to win at NCAAs is just battling against myself. I can’t let the ghosts from last year get in the way of the new Tye this year.”
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