Warrior of the Week: Arroyo, Williams

(Photos by Rick Andrews)

BOYS WINNER: Andres Arroyo - Junior @ Colonial

Andres Arroyo had less than 48 hours between competing at the Metro Conference Championships and FSU Relays this week. On Wednesday the Colonial junior anchored the Grenadiers 4x800 relay team with a 1:51 split. Coach Rene Plasencia knew if he just competed in the 800 he would be fresh enough for the 3200 on Friday night.

"Originally we were just going to train him throughout the week and just run at FSU. When the schedule for Metros came out we had to make a choice. It's nice to win a championship, but we have to do what is best sometimes for the individual athletes and that was going to be the fastest 3200 meter field of the season."

Arroyo established himself as one of the top distance runners during the 2011 cross country and put the exclamation mark on that statement Friday night in a field that saw ten runners break 9:30 for 3200 meters. The Colonial junior led the way with a state leading and US#2 time of 9:10.37 which was a personal best 16 seconds. Plasencia says the game plan was to go under nine minutes.

"We figured why not go for broke. He's not as great at pacing as we'd like. We told him to 67 and then 65 and he came back in 70. We wanted to go thru the mile right under 4:30 and I think it might have been a little difficult for him. On laps five and six he went 72 seconds and fell off pace. We took the splits of his last two laps and they were 68 and 62, and outkicked him at the end."

It was the first of two state leading and nationally ranked performances of the weekend for Arroyo. He came back the next afternoon and busted out a state leading and US #4 4:11.76 in the 1600. His time was also a new FSU Relays meet record. The game plan for this one was a little different. Plasencia says he realized the speed  in this race and knew it would come down to a kick in the final meters.

"We knew Otniel (Teixeira) was fast and had a lot of leg speed.  We were hoping someone would take the pace out hard and we didn't want Andres to lead the race from the beginning. Bert from Ransom Everglades led and Andres laid back for two laps. The last lap I saw Otniel going on him and I yelled at him to hammer the last lap because from the beginning to the end Otniel might have more leg speed. We wanted to Andres to take the kick out of him and push the pace the last 400 meters."

It was a kickers race down the final stretch and like earlier Arroyo pulled it out.  Plasencia doesn't doubt his capabilities especially in the last 120 meters. He says his star junior has a ton of speed and that is evident in recent speed workouts the team has been doing.

"We do a workout in practice 6 300s, 200s, and 100s. He was just moving on them hitting his 300s in 43, and 200s in 26-27 with only three to four minutes rest. He's a tough kid and he doesn't like to lose. If he's in a race he is going to give everything he's got out there and going to go out and fight."

Colonial is on spring break this week which will allow Arroyo some time to train and prepare for the Pepsi Relays in Gainesville in two weeks. Plasencia isn't sure if there will be enough time to double in both the 800 and 1600 and says the decision of what Arroyo will run is ultimately up to the youngster.

"I'm going to leave it up to him. If he wants to go head to head with guys like Otniel and Ryan Schnulle he can. If he wants another chance to go sub 9:10 and sub 4:10 in the 3200 he can run those events. He's worked hard so I don't see a reason to stick him in one race or another. More than likely when states rolls around we are going to try and triple him in the 4x800, 1600, and 3200."

Andres' Athlete Profile

GIRLS WINNER: Lily Williams - Senior @ Chiles

Lily Williams didn't come in with a master plan for the Elite 3200m at the FSU Relays.  The Chiles senior and Coach Scott Gowan knew their might not be another field assembled during a regular season then the one that Friday night. Gowan told Williams to just go after it.

"We had three girls we thought could in the mix up near the front; Lily, Rachel, and Carly. It's easy to write a strategy down on paper, but some days they are either feeling it or they aren't. Sometimes the best results come when there is no plan at all. Lily got to the mile mark and said it felt easy and continued to pick up the pace. She is one of the best racers I've coached and I trust her. She knows how she is feeling better than I do. She made a move and didn't slow down."

When Williams crossed the line she had ran a state leading and US#2 time of 10:30.53. The mark was 17 seconds better than her previous best and 10 seconds faster than her nearest competitor Olivia Ortiz of Lakewood Ranch who had beaten Williams out for the 3A Cross Country State Championship. Gowan says he wasn't overly surprised at the time and knows that on any given night that time could have fallen for several runners.

"I was slightly surprised, but I know how hard Lily works and what kind of tools she has.  I think there are other girls in that field who could have run 10:30 or faster, but she was the only girl to do it that night. Everyone who could have gotten it done at that race was there that night."

The Chiles junior doesn't just have the speed and endurance to  make her a great athlete she also has the intangibles you can't teach. Gowan describes her as a very focused, motivated, and bright lady, who really understands the program,  and what they are doing with training.

"She comes to work every day trying to get better. She doesn't sit back she is always reaching for more. She's very driven and wants to improve. She realizes there are a lot of good runners out there and wants to be mentioned in that group. At some point all the hard work comes down to 5,10, 17 minutes depending on the race and you hope everything lines up and you can reap the rewards. I told her it's a big meet and a big win, but come the start of the week we put it behind us and go after bigger meets."

Those bigger meets are right around the corner with conference then districts, regionals and ultimately the 3AState Finals. Some of her toughest competition from FSU will also be at the state meet; runners like Olivia Ortiz, Kacy Smith, Vanessa Valentine, and her two teammates Rachel Givens and Carly Thomas. Gowan says there are time goals in mind for Williams, but there is more out there.

"I think she wants to go under 4:50, 10:30, and 2:12 for the 1600,3200, and 800. She wants to be a competitor every time she lines up, be successful, and healthy. She wants to work hard and be a leader on our team."

After the high school season, Williams will prepare for collage. The Chiles senior has committed to run for Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She was a part of three cross country team titles for Chiles as well as multiple individual state championships in track. Gowan says he will miss many things about her and calls her the complete student athlete.

"She gets it done in the classroom, on the track, and on the trails. She practices every single day. What more can you ask for. I think I am just fortunate I got a chance to work with her. She goes to Chiles High School and has represented us with class on and off the course and in the classroom. She has been a solid leader. She leads by example and is very focused, driven and mature for her age. We're not a super high mileage team so I believe she will be even better than she is now in college." 

Lily's Athlete Profile