West Meck sprinter Williams signs with Western Carolina

by Cliff Mehrtens

West Mecklenburg High senior Michaela Williams (front row, center) signed a National Letter of Intent to run track at Western Carolina University next fall. Phil Robey, her grandfather, is on the left, and Deanna Williams, her mother, is on the right in the front row. Standing (from left) are West Mecklenburg track coach Sam Willoughby and West Mecklenburg Principal Eric Ward. (Cliff Mehrtens/MIM photo)

Michaela Williams found out that Western Carolina University wasn’t what some people told her it was.

Williams, a senior track sprinter at West Mecklenburg High, signed a National Letter of Intent to run for the Catamounts next fall. The school is in Cullowhee, about 170 miles west of Charlotte near Asheville. The campus is picturesque, and enrollment is about 9,000.

“When I first heard about it, I thought it was out in the middle of nowhere,” Williams said.

But she visited the campus with West Mecklenburg track coach Sam Willoughby, went to a football game and met with coaches and other Western Carolina athletes.

“I met other athletes, and they really loved it,” Williams said. “They were telling me things about the campus. It really seemed interesting. At the football game, the atmosphere was really good.”

Williams said she also considered Methodist, UNC Wilmington and Winston-Salem State.

Family, friends and West Mecklenburg officials surrounded Williams at her signing ceremony in the school media center. She wore a purple Western Carolina T-shirt with two Catamounts hats nearby.

Willoughby said academics also factored into Williams’ decision.

“Western (Carolina) was interested from the very beginning,” he said. “She was impressed with the visit. They have her major, too, which is food nutrition. It’s a match made in heaven.”

Williams ran with West Mecklenburg’s state championship 400- and 800-meter relay teams in 2011 and 2010. The quartet is again one of the state’s premier groups this season and recently won both relays at the prestigious Queen City Relays.

Willoughby said Williams’ strengths are “consistency and dedication.”

“In college, she’ll need to increase her speed,” he said. “She’s already a hard worker. I predict with her age and maturity, she’s going to get even better. Because as you get older, you get stronger. If she keeps doing what she’s doing, naturally she’s going to improve.”

Williams is optimistic as well.

“My workout habits are good, so I need to maintain my focus and keep working hard,” Williams said. “I feel very relieved because I really want to go (to Western Carolina). I was excited when the coach called me back.”

Williams and her teammates competed in the MEGA-7 conference championship meet at West Mecklenburg on Monday, April 30. As they’ve proven the past two years, they’ll be major contenders at the N.C. 4A West Regional on May 12 at Watauga High, and the N.C. 4A state meet on May 19 in Greensboro.

Last May, Williams ran the third leg in West Mecklenburg’s N.C. 4A state championship 400-yard relay, with  Toni Thorn, Naya Tapper and Alvonna Blakney. They won in 48.11 seconds.

The same quartet combined to win the state 4A championship in the 800-meter relay with a time of one minute, 20.29 seconds.

Williams will join a Western Carolina squad that last week finished second to Appalachian State in the Southern Conference championships.

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