Girls prep track: Hillcrest's Williams a natural at hurdles

Girls prep track • She owns one of the fastest times in the state in 300 hurdles this season.
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Hillcrest track coach Kirk Merhish wasn't exactly sure where Ariana Williams would fit in as a freshman last season.

He tried her in the high jump. He tried her in the 100 and the 200 before the light went on and a match was made.

The hurdles.

Of course. Hillcrest and the hurdles, like tents at the state track meet. Some things just go well together.

The same school that turned out Amber and Chase Judd, a pair of former state hurdle champions, and the same school that produced Troy Nesbit, who set the state record in the 110 hurdles (1991) and is an assistant coach at Hillcrest, now has another hurdler to keep up the tradition.

"It was a good call to move her to the hurdles," Merhish said. "Some kids have the coordination and are able to get the timing down and it clicks for them, and for other kids it never does. We've had a great tradition with the hurdles here. It's kind of become a niche for our school."

Williams showed the type of potential she has when she beat teammate Sydney Bricker, a future Division I athlete who will be going to Utah Valley University next year.

Williams turned in the fifth-fastest time in the state in the 300 hurdles with a time of 46.69 seconds at the Coaches Invitational at Copper Hills.

"Our hurdler coach told me last year that he thought I would be a good fit for the hurdles," Williams said. "I hadn't thought about hurdles at all because I didn't think I'd be good at it. I remember the first day when I started working on form and trying to get the hang of it. I was pretty tense to start. The first time I ran in a hurdle race it was kind of sloppy. But once I got over one, I felt more confident."

While her performance in the 300 hurdles was the highlight of the season to date, there have been other moments worthy of posting on YouTube. She also qualified for state in the 100 hurdles and is hoping her team will turn in a time fast enough in the 400 and 1,600 relays to give her four events to participate in at the state meet.

"I didn't expect to get this good this fast," Williams said. "I'm already getting faster times and beating juniors and seniors. The key is probably working on speed and form. Running with your arms out and not having good form can slow you down. I still have things I have to work on … but overall I think things are going pretty good."