Former Immaculate hurdler turns pro

December 06, 2019
Jeanine Williams (left)
Jeanine Williams (left)

Jamaica has a deep stock of high-class 100-metre hurdlers. It could be deeper next year as former Immaculate Conception High School standout Jeanine Williams is going pro. With three years of notable performances under her belt at Georgia Tech University, Williams has set her sights on a place on Jamaica's team at the 2020 Olympics.

Fourth in the NCAA Championships final won by fellow Jamaican Janeek Brown, Williams intends to focus on athletics for a few years before following a dream of becoming a doctor. "I'll try to go pro for a couple of years and then after I'll take my talents to med school because that is the ultimate dream, to become a doctor," she said. "I can't do both, so I have to do track first and then go to med school."

Three years of improvement

In May, she lowered her personal best to 12.72 seconds to become the 14th fastest Jamaican ever and reached the NCAA final to conclude three years of improvement under Georgia Tech hurdles coach Nat Page, who was once married to sprint queen Merlene Ottey. "He's really helped me a lot and we still have a lot more things to work on and I don't think I should change my coach now especially with Olympics next year," Williams said of her decision to stay in Atlanta.

She left Immaculate for Auburn University in 2015 after winning silver at the Carifta Games. "In my freshman year, I didn't see things going upward for me, then I got a transfer to Georgia Tech. Then I started training with Coach Page and started to see a change, a change in my technique, a change in how I ran. My times were dropping, and I said, 'OK, maybe there're a chance'," she reflected.

Confirmation came in 2018. "In my second year at Tech, I became Conference champion, indoors and out, and I said, 'OK, all right, that seems good', and then there was the Athletics World Cup and I got second and I was like, 'O wow. This is like world-class and I got a silver medal. Clearly, there's something there, and clearly this is something I can do'," she said.

The Jamaican hurdles scene is hot. Danielle Williams, Brown and Megan Tapper placed third, seventh and eighth, respectively, at the World Championships in Doha. Williams isn't daunted. "What happened with the whole Trials and the whole team selection thing that happened, I kind of got a drive to ensure that whatever happens, I will always make the team," she said.

Her personal best of 12.72 makes her the sixth fastest active Jamaican behind namesake Williams, Brown, Tapper, Rushelle Burton, Britany Anderson and Doha semi-finalist Yanique Thompson.

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