By Jeremy McDonald
TURNER, Ore.– Some call running their form of therapy. Their form of meditation. A moment of clarity washes over those people and it’s refreshing.
For Cascade Sprinter Ashton Williams, it’s no different. But when it comes to lining up for a 100-meter, 200-meter dash, that feeling amplifies.
“Before the start of the race, all I’m thinking about is crossing that finish line. the sound of the crowd starts to fade when the starter starts talking. By the time I’m getting in my blocks, I am laser-focused and my mind is cleared,” he starts.
“I get butterflies as soon as the starter yells ‘Set’. Then the race is a blur, just me and the finish line. This is considered by many runner’s high, and it is an irreplaceable feeling. when my friends watching the race ask if I heard them yelling for me it surprises me because I hear virtually nothing during the race.”
During the time of Corona, consistency is crucial in training. No matter if you are a short-distance runner like Williams or a middle distance or long-distance competitor. Since their two-week practice ended a few weeks ago, Williams has been putting in the miles, as well as the strength and core work while working in interval training on the track.
Staying hungry for the moment in which they are able to return to competition.
“I think it has really made many people, as well as myself, appreciate the sport much more. every athlete I have spoken to just misses being out on the track and competing,” said Williams. “It’s the classic: you never know what you have until it’s gone, although it is not completely gone yet. this is why I think the drive for athletes to stay hungry is so high.”
The Williams’ last name has been in Cascade lore for some time. Ashton Williams’ dad, Anthony, was on the 2000 3A State Champion Cougars squad; helping the 4×100 relay team to a second-place finish. The Elder Williams is still around the program today as the younger Williams is entering his final year in a Cascade uniform, but Ashton admits there’s not a lot of pressure going into it with who his dad is.
“I’ve definitely felt a little bit of pressure since many know of my dad’s success in the sport during his time. but since day one my dad has told me that he’ll do anything to help me surpass his accomplishments and beyond,” Williams said. “Having that kind of support from my family as well as having my dad as a coach inspires me to stay hungry to grow and succeed in the sport.”
Williams calls his dad, as well as Kellie Borresen who has helped with his technical progression as a sprinter, as mentors of his.
The younger Williams remembers his sophomore year when he would go on to qualify for State, a special moment with his Father prior to his State Qualifying race and the afterwards seeing Head Coach Molly Gehley and Borresen’s reactions.
“My dad saw defeat in my eyes, my thoughts were running and I was so nervous. My dad grabs me and pulls me aside and says to me “you know what you need to do, just do it”,” Williams said. “It was so simple, but something clicked. I ran my race, and didn’t realize my mom screaming, my dad running across the field, my sprint coach Kellie Borresen jumping up and down, and head coach Molly Gehley was yelling. and when I mean yelling, I mean YELLING.
“It was such a surreal moment and I didn’t even realize the support of my team and family until after the fact.”
Williams was 11th in the preliminaries his sophomore year with a time of 23.77. A lingering hip injury hampered the then-sophomore from possibly making a run for a spot in the finals the next day. But for Williams, he knows too, individual success is only sweet for so long. Team success is greater.
Williams has that natural leader trait to him. Knowing that for success in a program, it takes an army to make it happen.
“I believe that having a positive and fun mentality across the whole team is the key to fully connecting with the sport. no matter your skill or role on the team, you are treated like family,” Williams said. “Personally, I think that I have grown into a role of leadership very well and just the fact that many coaches of various sports have praised my natural ability to lead shows enough. but I don’t lead for praise or acceptance from others,
“I do it because I treat my team like they are my family. I want the absolute best for everyone on the team and continue the legacy of Cascade Track and Field.”
Freshman year of Districts, 4×400 relay had just qualified for State on their way to a fifth-place finish in 4A in 2018. He remembers how nervous Ashley Frazer was entering the race and had comforted her following the race that year on the coast.
“Ashley Fraser…was a nervous wreck before the race, and when she got the baton, she let it all out on that track,” Williams said. “After she handed off the baton, she was bawling and could barely stand. as I held her upright, I was so proud of her.”
With how his Junior season went, Williams took advantage of his lone opportunity to compete at the Oregon Track Club’s All-Comers Meet in August of 2020. Running the 100-meter dash in 11.83 seconds and ran the 200-meter dash in 24.40 seconds, finishing fourth and seventh respectively in both races. Just returning to his therapy and his peace of mind on the track.
“Man, just being able to race again felt so good. my performance honestly didn’t really matter at that point in time just getting back out to race was enough for me,” Williams said.
With his Senior season lining up in the Early Spring, Williams is optimistic for one last competition before graduation. One last ride with his teammates before he’s onto the next one. The next chapter of his life.
“I’ve been anticipating a senior season and have continued training with coaches so when the season approaches, my goal is to be at a mid-season level technically and athletically. I am coming in hot this season and I’m not stopping,” Williams said. “I always live in the moment. my life in track and outside of track I am always living in the moment. Every day is a gift, and that’s why it is the present. I take this sport one race at a time and give it my all every meet.
“There comes a time before a race where the crowd suddenly goes silent in my head, and all i can think about is me crossing that finish line. just thinking about it makes my heart start pumping, like I’m at the start line. I try not to dwell on the uncertainties of future races, and just enjoy the one in front of me.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald