UWI, Mona opens doors to sprint sensation Briana Williams

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

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Jamaica's 16-year-old sprint sensation Briana Williams is already grabbing the attention of top universities.

Even though she would have anticipated that the offers or interests would eventually come her way, the young prodigy was not expecting the reality of an athletic scholarship to kick in two years before ending her high school chapter.

The newly minted IAAF World Under-20 sprint double champion last Friday encountered the first of what is expected to be many universities on her target list after the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus expressed an interest in having her attend the institution when the time comes.

The American-born athlete, who currently attends the Northeast High School in Oakland Park, Florida, was given the commitment by Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles that the university's doors would be open to her in all departments.

It was one that Williams and her mother Sharon Simpson welcomed for future reference.

“I just want to say thank you on behalf of Briana's support team. We are very grateful that the university has opened its doors to us and whenever it comes time for her to choose whatever she wishes, we are glad that the offer is here and we will keep it in mind as to what she intends to do,” Simpson noted.

Williams concurred. “I am very happy that UWI is showing an interest in having me attend the school and surprised that the offers are coming this soon, but like my mom said, I am just 16 so I have two more years of high school.

“So going into my junior year I will think about the possibilities of taking this offer to come to UWI, I love the campus and all. Throughout the years I have been coming here and my cousins and friends are here, so I can't wait to look upon the offer and maybe take it,” Williams shared.

Williams recently wrapped up what was an impressive season when she clocked 11.16 seconds to win the 100m in Tampere, Finland, just off her personal best 11.13 seconds, and then returned two days later to complete the double with a sparking 22.50 seconds — a new Championships, National Youth and Junior record.

Those performances followed three gold medals at the CARIFTA Games in The Bahamas earlier in the year, including the sprint double on her way to the Austin Sealy award for the most impressive athlete in the championships.

She was a part of two record-breaking performances then, running 11.27 seconds (1.6m/s) to break the 20-year-old CARIFTA record of 11.28 seconds set in 1998 by Ranieka Bean of Bermuda.

And she also won the 200m in a then personal best 23.11 seconds (1.1m/s) after leading off the Under-17 girls' 4x100m team to a championships record 44.95 seconds to erase the 45.05 seconds set by another Jamaican foursome in 2009.

“Yeah, it was indeed a very good season for me and I am feeling really great that I was able to compete in the sprint double at such a young age and win it at two major championships,” she told the Jamaica Observer, adding that she will be discussing the UWI interest with her coach Ato Boldon.

Meanwhile, the UWI Vice Chancellor, in his address, pointed out that the sight of Williams bursting on the scene was refreshing at a time when many were concerned about the post Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce era.

He added that the commitment to Williams was a fitting way to celebrate her accomplishments as well as the UWI's 70th anniversary.

“We are here to say to young Briana and mom, be assured that the University of the West Indies… your university, is here to support the journey of Briana.

“We all know the journey of young athletes is not an easy one, it is filled with injuries and risks and therefore to strengthen her emotionally, intellectually and physically….to strengthen her to manage this journey is our responsibility and our duty,” Sir Hilary Beckles reasoned.

He continued: “For me this is an emotional thing because I love to see young people doing well and I love to see young people acquiring all the skills that they need to acquire to fulfil their God-given potential and this young Briana here is special.

“We are not here to get in the way of her thinking and her mummy's thinking or her coach, we are just here to roll out the red carpet for her in any fashion that she and her family would wish to imagine. Whatever she needs, this university is in the position to make available to her.”

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