Kell’s Kendell Williams held her own among the world’s best youth track and field athletes last week with a third-place finish in the girls 100-meter hurdles at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Lille, France.
The Class AAAA state champion in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles was joined in France by Whitefield Academy’s Cameron Thornton and McEachern’s Amber Bryant-Brock. Thornton reached the semifinals of the boys 800 run, while Bryant-Brock made the semis in the girls 400 hurdles.
Williams placed third in the 100 hurdles with a personal-best time of 13.28 seconds. She also placed 11th in the heptathlon with 5,101 points, with a win in the 100 hurdles (13.74) her highlight in the seven-discipline event.
“I did pretty good,” said Williams, who also won the heptathlon at last month’s New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C. “I (ran a personal-best time) in the (100) hurdles and I’m happy with that. I could have done better in the (heptathlon), but it was a good meet.”
It wasn’t the first international competition for Williams, who also competed in the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational last summer in Puerto Rico. This one, however, was an eye-opening experience for the rising junior.
“It was pretty cool,” Williams said. “It was pretty interesting to look around and see the best athletes in the world, and the best athletes in the U.S., and to realize that I’m one of those athletes. It was really cool.”
Thornton, who was the Class A boys state champion in the 1,600 run, started out with an 11th-place finish in the first round of the 800 run, clocking a time of 1:52.34. But he came up just short of qualifying for one of the eight spots in the finals with a ninth-place finish of 1:49.64 in the semifinals.
“I felt like I ran my hardest,” Thornton said. “I’m disappointed that I failed to qualify for the final by such a small margin, but it was a good learning experience.”
Thornton was making his first foray into international competition, and it was a memorable experience for the rising Whitefield senior.
“It was very cool,” he said. “It was exciting, but also, it was kind of scary at the same time. It was amazing meeting kids from all around the world, but I was competing against kids from some of the top (track and field) nations in the world, like Kenya and Ethiopia, and that was pretty intimidating. But it was fun and it was a good experience.”
Bryant-Brock also fell just short of making it to the finals in her event. The Class AAAAA state champion in the 300 hurdles, she finished seventh in the first round of the 400 hurdles with a time of 1:01.13, then placed ninth in the semifinals at 1:00.18 and missing a berth in the finals by just hundredths of a second.
“It wasn’t my best competition,” Bryant-Brock said. “Every athlete has a bad day and this was one for me.”
It was the second major international competition for Bryant-Brock, who finished fourth in the 400 hurdles at last summer’s Youth Olympics in Singapore.
“It was very much like Singapore,” Bryant-Brock said. “You get to meet a lot of new people from other countries and from your own country. You learn a lot about other cultures. It’s a very different experience.”
Williams and Bryant-Brock will close out their summer track seasons next month at the AAU Junior Olympics in New Orleans.
Thornton, before he turns his focus to the high school cross country season and a repeat of his Class A state title, is competing at the AAU National Club Championships in Orlando, Fla.
Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Williams has good show in world meet