Angela Williams Ready to Close Out Storied Track Career at USC
May 29, 2002
BATON ROUGE, La. - Until Angela Williams did it last year, no woman had won three NCAA 100-meter titles.
She will try to make it four this week when she wraps up one of the greatest careers in collegiate track and field.
'I'm trying to do something really big and make history,' she said Tuesday. 'God willing, everything will come out well. I'm motivated, having fun and I'm just going to take all the experience I can and run with it.'
Big things have always been expected from the sprinter who stands just 5-foot-2. Ten years ago, at age 12, she was anointed the next great female sprinter by Florence Griffith-Joyner. The highest of expectations did not seem to burden her as she led the Southern California women's program to unprecedented success, culminating with its first national title last year.
'What Angela Williams has done for the USC program is immeasurable,' coach Ron Allice said. 'If you take a look at our storied history at USC, certainly she is the greatest female athlete to come to USC in track and field.'
The Trojans will need everything Williams can give and then some to defend their title. Crosstown rival UCLA, which beat USC for the Pacific-10 championship, enters the meet as the favorite, with South Carolina and host Louisiana State also in the mix.
Tennessee, with a deep, talented team headed by sophomore spring sensation Justin Gatlin, is favored to repeat as men's champion, especially since LSU will be without the reigning NCAA 400 indoor champion Alleyne Francique, who was ruled ineligible by the school because of eligibility questions.
'I think that we would have to have everything go very, very well for us to be in contention,' LSU coach Pat Henry said.
The team race should be all-Southeastern Conference, with Arkansas and Florida chasing Tennessee and LSU. The Volunteers are the class of the field though, barring any stumbles in the sprints and relays.
'We think it will be a great track meet, probably one of the best in the world this year,' Tennessee coach Bill Webb said. 'We'll compete hard. I've always said it takes a lot of luck and good health. Right now we're healthy and our guys are ready to go, so we'll be right in the mix.'
The UCLA women beat USC twice last year, in a dual meet and the Pac-10 meet, but the Trojans won out in the NCAA competition. The Bruins won the first two NCAA women's outdoor championships in 1982 and 1983. Since then, they have seven second-place finishes -- three in the last four years -- but no firsts.
'It's kind of like that football team that kept losing -- Denver,' UCLA coach Jeanette Bolden said. 'All of a sudden they got it done, and everybody forgot about all the other times they lost. At some point, our luck's got to change.'
She said she has tried to ease the pressure on her team, made up predominantly of freshmen and sophomores, this year by just trying to get them to perform at their best and not worry about the outcome.
Bruins senior Tracy O'Hara will try to get the team off to a good start in the women's pole vault, one of four finals scheduled Wednesday, the opening day of competition at Bernie Moore Stadium. O'Hara won the event in 2000 and tied for second last year.
'This year we're going about things a little differently,' O'Hara said. 'I think we're a little more prepared. This is my fourth NCAAs, and the third one where we potentially have a good possibility of winning. I know what to do. I know how to get the team fired up, just guide them and let them learn from me.'