Most people don’t feel a sense of guilt when they win a competition, but for Tava Williams, her victories in the shot put this season are bittersweet.
Most athletes put in work to constantly improve in their sport, and some even dedicate their entire lives to it.
Williams’ journey to qualifying to compete in the shot put for Shoemaker at the upcoming Region I-6A meet wasn’t the path she thought her life would take.
“No, not at all,” Williams said, shaking her head. “I didn’t think I would make it this far.”
The senior is in her first year competing in the event and over the season has grown from the new kid in the pit to placing third at the District 8-6A track and field meet.
“It was real unexpected,” Shoemaker shot put coach Meredith Shaw-Moore said of Williams’ performance at district. “It’s a true statement when they say expect the unexpected.”
Williams joined the track team as a sprinter. In 2016, as a sophomore, she set a personal record at the district meet with a 12.36-second showing in the 100 meter-run.
She also anchored and helped the Lady Grey Wolves take second that same year with a time of 1:43.04 in the 800 relay at the area meet.
Then, tragedy struck.
Williams didn’t return to track for her junior year as she needed to take some personal time after losing her mother.
After finishing her nursing degree, Williams’ mom was on her way to her first day of work when she was hit by a drunk driver.
Shaw-Moore and the other track coaches asked Williams to reconsider joining the team again at the start of this track season.
“She started out kind of late and wasn’t in sprint shape like she usually is,” Shoemaker coach Richard Daniels said of Williams return. “But she’s too good of an athlete not to do something.”
Shaw-Moore convinced her to try her hand at shot put.
“I feel I would have failed her as a coach if I didn’t ask her to come and do something,” Shaw-Moore said, “because she’s an athlete.
“I’m grateful that she took a leap of faith and took a chance at doing something different.”
Williams’ growth and success in the past few months has her coach wondering just how far she could have succeeded in this event had she started a whole lot sooner.
Williams even realizes how rare it is for a young athlete to take a year off from training and competing and still come back to win, especially in a brand new sport.
“I feel like I’ve really done something,” Williams said. “I’ve been gone, and to come back, it feels really good.
“I even think if I hadn’t had took that year off, I’d be even better.”
Her success in the shot put has taken Williams all the way to regionals along with teammate Cherith Hicks.
“They motivate each other,” Shaw-Moore said of the pair. “They understand teamwork.
“After every meet, they’re both quick to share in the excitement that they’re advancing to the next level to represent Shoemaker together.”
While Hicks may be a sophomore, she has more experience in shot put and shares what knowledge and tips she can with Williams.
“She’s one in a million,” Shaw-Moore said. “She’s coachable and, as a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”
All season, Williams had one goal every meet.
“Beat my personal record,” she said.
And at each meet, she has.
“She went from 31 to 37 feet in two, three weeks,” Shaw-Moore recalled. “Some kids don’t even jump six feet until the next school year, and she’s doing it in such a short about of time.
“It just says a lot about her that she wasn’t tapped, and we finally tapped into it.”
Williams may have found her event at a later time than most, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t looking to continue to grow at the next level.
“My next goal is to make it to college,” Williams said.
“And I’m going to do absolutely everything I can do help her reach that goal too,” Shaw-Moore said.
As Williams prepares for regionals, she’s excited to get her school recognition in an event she feels is sometimes not represented.
And with that, the sense of guilt didn’t last long for her as she prepares to head to the University of Texas at Arlington for Friday’s regional track and field meet with her eyes set on setting a new personal record.
If she qualifies for state while reaching that goal, it will be just an added bonus, because Williams has told her coach that she wasn’t supposed to make it this far.
As the girl who tried shot put for fun at the beginning of the season, she was not suppose to place at district, and she was not suppose to take the final qualifying berth for regionals in the shot put.
But as Shaw-Moore repeatedly reminds Williams, “She’s exactly where she’s meant to be.”