By the time Ryan was in the midst of its football playoff run last fall, Cameron Williams already had been taken off the roster.
Williams, who was ineligible because of his grades, watched from afar while the Raiders reached the Class 5A Division II regional finals. As the track and field season approached, the former state finalist made sure he wasn’t going to be on the sidelines in the spring.
He was going to be on the track.
The Ryan senior was one of a few athletes practicing Thursday afternoon as the team prepared for the Garland Centennial Patriot Relays next Friday.
Now that Williams has hit his marks in the classroom, he has aspirations of setting one of Ryan’s most coveted marks in the lane. Ryan coach Janson Head said his fastest athlete has made tremendous strides since he came to Ryan in his sophomore year.
“He’s improved,” Head said. “He’s taken a big step from then to now. He’s running better, and at this point in the season he’s running just about as well as anybody we’ve had. Aaron Scott was the exception.”
Scott’s school record of 21.3 seconds in the 200 meters is what Williams is chasing. Williams has a hand-timed mark of 21.79 seconds, about five-tenths slower than the mark set by the former Raider who received a scholarship to Texas but left after one year.
Williams was a sophomore when he was on the 800-meter relay team that finished fifth at the 4A state meet. Two years later and with Ryan now in Class 5A, Williams hopes to return to the state meet and keep Ryan’s tradition of being strong in the relays alive.
But before he could chase those aspirations, he had to get his grades in order. A few bad habits didn’t help his cause in the fall.
Williams’ teachers would ask the senior to come in to work on improving his grades. Williams, a self-described procrastinator, never went in until the last minute.
By then, it was too late. Williams missed Ryan’s entire football playoff run.
He listened to former Denton school district athletic director Ken Purcell give speeches to the team, and he wanted to go out there and help his team, but he couldn’t.
Williams made sure he didn’t make the same mistake again.
Williams sought to be the first one in class. He cut back on his socializing time in the Ryan halls and cafeteria. He was talking to his teachers on a daily basis.
“I learned now during track, right as I see something’s failing, I go home and look at my grades and go the next day and talk to the teacher about it so I can get it up immediately, so I don’t have to until the end of the six weeks,” Williams said.
Head said he’s been on Williams’ case since he came to Ryan as a sophomore, when the track standout moved to the U.S. Highway 380 Corridor and transferred from Denton to Ryan.
Along with his improvement in the classroom, the senior has improved his stopwatch times.
Williams is the anchor on the team’s 400 relay and 800 relay and the second leg of the 1,600 relay, which he just joined a few weeks ago. He probably won’t run the 1,600 until the District 5-5A meet, which does not begin until April 9, Head said.
Ryan senior Paul Hunter, on the 800 relay team, said Williams has the speed to erase the team’s mistakes on baton handoffs, which Hunter said happens quite often.
And while Williams is trying to catch up to the Ryan runners who came before him, everybody else is trying to catch up to Williams.
“That’s the main goal,” Hunter said. “A lot of kids aren’t faster than him, so if you’re faster than him, you’re probably one of the fastest kids at the track meet.”
Along with his stellar 200 time, Williams has a season-low 10.82 mark in the 100, and a split time of 49.3 seconds in the 1,600 relay.
At this point in the season, the head coach said, Williams is running as well as former Ryan standouts like Scott, current Texas A&M athlete Daniel Martin and Sterling Fuggett, who went on to run at Bakersfield (Calif.) College.
The way Williams has been running, his coach is starting to entertain the notion of the senior breaking Scott’s school record before the end of the season.
Head said he’s in the realm of those guys right now, and has been someone Head can trust at the end of the relays.
And if his progress on and off the track continues, Williams could find a way to run in college, like the rest of the names he wants to be associated with.
“As a senior, he has matured some,” Head said. “He realizes he’s capable of [running in college]. He’s got the athletic ability to go run somewhere. I’ve been telling him that for a long time.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.