By Shelby Townsend
Junior track and field and cross country runner Talya Williams may be one of the busiest student-athletes on campus. She just capped off her indoor track season with a personal record in the mile at the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships with a time of 4:59.47, just two-hundredths of a second away from breaking LIU Post’s record. To qualify for this meet, which is a Division I meet, Williams won the mile at the East Coast Conference Championships with a time of 5:02.81, her personal best until she improved again a week later at the ECAC Championships.
Williams never really stops running. She spends her summers preparing for the cross country season that starts in the fall, and then spends the fall competing. After cross country ends, she dives right into the indoor track season, which runs right into the outdoor track season. On top of all of this, she has to balance school, in which she is enrolled in 24 credit hours this semester, and an internship at Nassau Task: an alternative to incarceration for people struggling with substance abuse.
She starts her day, every day, around 6 a.m. with practice and training, and then heads straight to Nassau Task where she works 21 hours per week. From there, she heads straight back to campus for class at five. Oh, and during her free time she also works at the Pratt Recreation Center.
“I start everything early because I do have a lot,” Williams said. “When I get an assignment, and this doesn’t happen every time, but I do try to start it early. Just do a little bit at a time.”
Williams is enrolled in the dual degree program for criminal justice, which she thought was going to take five years to complete, but it turns out that she’ll be able to complete it in four. This means after this year, she will only have one more year left at Post.
“I feel like I just got here,” Williams said. “I still don’t know what I want to do, and that’s kind of crazy because I only have one more year.”
Growing up in Schenectady, NY, Williams fell in love with competitive running at an early age. Both of her parents ran track when they were in high school, and Williams wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps. “I always used to watch the track team and the cross country team practice,” Williams explained. “That’s what my mom did, so in 7th grade I tried it and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
When Williams first came to LIU Post in the fall of 2014, she had no idea that she would become the runner she is today. With her parents separated at an early age, she split her time between her mother who lives in upstate New York, and her father who lives in Georgia. Williams felt she could not perform to the best of her ability in high school because her personal life made it difficult to put in the time and focus. “I wasn’t that fast coming out of high school, “ Williams said. “When I got to college, I felt like anything I could do in college would be better than high school.”
During her three-year athletic career at Post, Williams has pushed past her own expectations in all three sports. She has competed in the mile at the ECAC Championships twice, and she won the 5,000 and 1,500 meter run at multiple track meets for outdoor track. In cross country, her favorite sport of the three, she qualified for the NCAA Championships her very first year at Post. She has been able to significantly improve her times in every event that she runs in. For example, it took her more than 19 minutes to run the 5k for cross country when she was in high school, but now she is consistently running the same event in 18 minutes, something she says she never thought she would be able to do.
“The way my coach coaches us, it feels easy to run that fast now,” Williams said, referring to current head coach of all three running teams, Kevin Buckley.
Coach Buckley told the Pioneer earlier in the season that his runners train hard throughout the season, but it’s important to give them a small break before big meets, especially since many of them, including Williams, run multiple events.
Indoor and outdoor track were re-introduced to Post in 2014, and since then, the program has seen three different head coaches. Robert Morris, the first head coach who recruited Williams, left the program after her first cross country season in 2014, leaving the men’s and women’s running teams without a head coach as they prepared for the indoor track and field season. “Everyone was just all over the place doing their own thing, so I wasn’t really happy with the program when it first started,” Williams explained.
In Feb. 2015, Pat Slevin was appointed as the new head coach, but also left Post after the 2015 cross country season. This year, Kevin Buckley took over for all of the running programs, and it seems that the program is finally starting to come together. Williams is impressed by the time and effort Buckley has been putting into building the program at Post.
Williams and the rest of the outdoor track and field team will start their season March 25 at the St. Joseph’s Spring Opener in Patchogue, NY.