Williams chooses Chattanooga

By Wes Holtsclaw

   Very rarely will a school have an athlete earn all-state recognition all four years. Happy Valley High School was lucky with Katie Williams.
   The senior cross-country and track sensation has worked diligently during four years with the Lady Warrior units, earning all-state honors on both sides of the spectrum.
   All of Williams' accomplishments have paid off, giving her an opportunity to continue her career at the NCAA Division I collegiate level with the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
   "I'm so excited," Williams said after signing Tuesday afternoon in the school's library. "I love running and I love competing, so I'm just ready to go out there and compete with the big girls now."
   Williams has been a part of two state runner-up squads and won many individual titles. She also hold school records in the three-mile (18:34), two-mile and mile run (5:16).
   "I told Katie that it not only recognizes her individually, but it also recognizes our program," said Happy Valley coach Don Verran. "We were fortunate to have David Hughes sign last year, and hopefully (Katie) won't be the only one. We have some other girls who want to sign (with schools)."
   Williams will join a stellar program in the Lady Moccasins.
   The unit participated in the NCAA South Regional this past season in cross country, while the track and field squads sent 10 men and women to the NCAA's first Mideast Regional meet.
   "They have a great program," she said. "I feel like they'll be able to compete well next year in the regionals. I think that I can help them step it up so they can make it to nationals. I like the coach and I'm ready to go experience new things."
   Verran believes she is ready for the next step.
   "I really think that she will fit right in," said Verran. "She might not be the top dog in college, but as far as team wise, she's talked to her teammates. I think she'll fit right in and be one of the top five or six people in her class."
   Williams will carry several fond memories from her career at Happy Valley.
   "It's been wonderful," Katie said of her career at Happy Valley. "Getting to watch David (Hughes) run, looking up to him and wanting to do great in college. My coaches are awesome. They are the nicest guys ever and you never hear anything negative out of them."
   Of her memories with the team, she enjoyed spending time with the girls on the squad.
   "The bus rides back-and-forth and hanging out with the girls have been fun," she said. "We are more like a family than a group."
   Speaking of family, Williams has one of the most supportive groups of relatives at each of her events.
   "They are awesome," she said. "I bet I have 10-15 family members that come to every meet. I feel so loved. As soon as I start running, I hear 'Katie, Let's Go!' I just have a real big support system."
   She has been an all-around good student-athlete at Happy Valley and the school will lose a lot when she leaves.
   "She's captured the hearts of all of us here," Verran said. "I almost get choked up when I think about losing her. She's been here four years and she's just a pleasure to be around. Each year, she's gotten better and that's a great accomplishment."
   "I love the fact that I can say I'm the only girl (here) that's got all-state four years in a row," Williams added.
   But she's not finished. This spring, she has one final run in track and she's aiming to topple a few of her marks.
   "I'm shooting for a five-minute mile and the two mile in the low elevens. I'm real excited about that."