Track & Field News, widely recognized as the bible of the sport, has named Jamaica’s Briana Williams as the 2019 High School Girls Athlete of the Year.

The 17-year-old Williams won 14 of 19 votes for the top spot over Valor High School’s Anna Hall and Chloe Cunliffe of West Seattle, who were second and third, respectively.

She was thankful for the recognition.

“It’s an honour to be named the Track & Field News High School Athlete of the Year,” she said.

“A lot of amazing athletes have gotten this title and to be named amongst them is astonishing and humbling because people have seen all the hard work I’ve put in for last season as a junior in high school. Thank you Track & Field News!”

However, according to the magazine, Williams lost more than one ballot because of the doping issue that overshadowed her year and the fact that she did not compete for her high school, Northeast High in Oakland Park, Florida, last season.

Williams missed representing Jamaica at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar in September when she tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) after setting what would have been a World U18 record 10.94s while finishing third in the 100m finals at the Jamaican National Championships in June.

She was reprimand with no period of ineligibility by an independent anti-doping disciplinary panel in late September, 72 hours before the start of the IAAF World Championships in Doha.

With the deadline for entries set for the following day, the Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association (JAAA) entered Jonielle Williams in the 100m at Williams’ expense.

Notwithstanding the disappointing end to the season enjoyed a successful season. She won the Austin Sealy Award for the second year running at the 2019 Carifta Games in the Cayman Islands in April after securing her second golden treble (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay) in as many years at the championships.

She also won the NACAC U18 100m title in Mexico in July and the Pan Am U20 title in Costa Rica later that month. She also won the 100m at the Greater Southwest Classic in New Mexico in early June in what was then a personal best 11.02.

Her coach, Ato Boldon, believes that Track&Field News’ recognition was a welcome one given the unfortunate end to the season.

“It feels good to be able to salvage something from what was for me a ‘lost’ season,” he said.

“It appears they will recognize her 10.94 as a national high school record as well. She was the dominant high school sprinter this year with five performances at 11.11 or better and a couple of sub-23s to boot, so I believe she has more than earned this one.”

He said that Williams stands to use this past season as a stepping stone for what is to come in 2020, an Olympic year in which she intends to make up for what could have been in 2019.

“She went to the World Championships in Doha and watched 10.9 and 22.5 win medals in the 100m and 200m. She knows she would have been a potential medallist this year because she ran 22.5 last year and 10.9 this year and she always sets PRs at championships,” he said, noting that there will be a difference in training this year.

For the first time in her short career with Born to Do It, Williams will be without her training partner, Trinidad and Tobago’s Khalifa St Fort, who parted ways with the club last season. So far, Boldon said, it has not affected the Jamaican speedster.

“This is the first off-season that she has started without a training partner to pace off of so I have been watching her carefully and she has responded well. I asked her if she thought that was lacking and she said ‘no, I am stepping up this season, I don’t need one.”

Source: Leighton Levy