Diane Williams leads on the court and on the field

If you missed the chance to see Diane Williams ’02 compete on the volleyball court in the fall, she’s a person you absolutely do not want to miss this spring at the track. A captain of both teams this year, Williams was a right-side hitter for the Ephs on the volleyball court in the fall and continues to make her presence felt on the track team as a thrower throughout the winter and into the spring.

“I love both sports, and they really balance well,” Williams said. “Volleyball is a team-oriented sport and track puts more emphasis on the individual. I’ve met great people through them and certainly never thought that I would make it to NCAAs in both.”

Though she was never recruited for volleyball and joined the team her sophomore year strictly out of “love of the game,” she faithfully worked to elevate both her personal performance and her team’s to the NCAAs.

A four-year member of the track team, Williams is an accomplished shot putter and discus, weight and hammer thrower. Not quite as universally understood as soccer, one might wonder how a person originally becomes involved in throwing one-kilogram, four-kilogram and 20-pound implements for distance.

“I used to dance from when I was little until about eighth grade,” Williams recalled. “In high school, I started to get interested in sports and joined the track team planning on being a sprinter and a jumper.

“A coach of mine asked me to try throwing and I would practice after working on my other events on the weekends. I was a multi-event athlete throughout high school, but my priority became what I was the best at, and that was throwing.”

After a great high school throwing career, Williams admits, “I was recruited as a heptathlete, but chose to just focus on throwing once I got here.” The track team is indeed indebted to the person who made that suggestion to her because her throwing career at Williams has been and still is phenomenal.

An athlete for all seasons, Williams now focuses on her three favorite track and field events: the shot put, discus throw and hammer throw. She is wrapping up a successful indoor season in the shot put and the 20-pound weight throw. With her throw of 43’10.75” in the shot put, Williams qualified for the NCAA Div. III Track and Field Indoor National Championships to be held in Ada, Ohio this weekend.

“This is the first time that I have ever automatically qualified for nationals; before I have made it by a narrow margin on a provisionally qualifying mark,” Williams said. “I feel pretty good going into this meet, having previously competed at nationals. My training is going well. I’m also excited to be making the trip with two of my teammates this year, Healy Thompson [’03] and Anna Swisher [’05].”

Making a habit of qualifying in near the bottom of the list for nationals, Williams has made her mark on the championships by finishing well ahead of her seed each time. Williams attributes her success at nationals to her own mental toughness and practice as well as rigorous, well-planned training by coach Fletcher Brooks.

Having achieved All-American status four times already in her throwing career, Williams threw an enormous personal best of 43’ 0.25″ to take fifth place at indoor nationals her sophomore year, earning her the first of her All-American plaques. At outdoor nationals, she finished eighth, picking up her second plaque.

Then, taking some time at the beginning of her junior year to try a new technique in the shot put (the spin rather than the glide) she barely missed a return trip to indoor nationals.

“I was practicing the spin during the week and competing with the glide, so it was very difficult to get comfortable with the spin. It did not go as well as I had hoped. In the end, though, it really makes me appreciate this year’s qualifying and last year’s outdoor season that much more.” Switching back over to the glide in the shot and resuming her discus throwing in the outdoor season, Williams soared.

Qualifying for the outdoor national championships in the discus, the hammer and the shot put, she had truly impressive performances during the regular season and at nationals. Throwing a personal best in the shot by 14 inches at nationals, she finished second in the shot, eighth in the discus and eleventh in hammer. Accepting her third All-American plaque, Williams finished just behind her teammate Healy Thompson ’03 in the shot put.

“I gave up trying to beat Healy my second meet at Williams,” Williams said. “She beat me by four feet at that meet. We’re a great team, pushing each other at meets and supporting each other all season.” Moving up from the 19th seed in the discus, Williams had a day of solid throws and captured eighth.

“I had a permanent smile that I couldn’t wipe off my face. It was great to have my parents there to see me throw. I had so much fun at that meet.”

Looking towards her last outdoor track season, Williams is prepared to make the most of it. Originally from California, Williams notes that she thrives on the sunshine the outdoor season affords her.

“I can’t wait for the outdoor season to begin; I love the outdoor events. I really enjoy discus and hammer,” she said.

If you have yet to see her in action, you’ll have the chance April 13 at the Williams Relays. Go ahead and mark your calendars – trust me, with talent like hers, you won’t want to miss it.