Three freshmen teammates once told St. Charles East senior sprinter Britney Williams they thought she'd be more intimidating.
Williams still finds the exchange hilarious. She'd love to talk to anyone as long as it's not before a big race or performance.
Also an accomplished violist, Williams found a new kind of harmony in her final season, setting unofficial standards for casual conversations while establishing several on-track records during the Saints' banner season.
The Kane County Chronicle Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year was personable when she earned the same nod as a junior and throughout her career. This spring, she wanted to be more.
"As I got older, I realized you're with these people all the time," Williams said. "You should get to know everybody, not just a small group of people you work out with every day."
Williams, bound for Iowa State on a full academic scholarship – she'll walk on to the women's track team – leaves a traditionally strong program with plenty of talking points.
She holds five school records as either an individual or relay member, including the 100 meters (12.03), 200 (25.74), 4x100 (48.24), 4x400 (3:50.07) and 4x800 (9:20.13).
The new 4x400 standard came in the final race of Williams' career, at the 3A state meet at Eastern Illinois. She completed the anchor leg after Elizabeth Chmelik, Jordan Shead and Allison Chmelik exchanged the baton ahead of Williams, who held off Belleville West's Ni'Jia McNamee to win the state title by 12 hundreths of a second.
East finished eighth in the team race on the strength of a handful of multiple medalists. Williams was one of them, taking seventh in the 400, two spots behind Shead, a junior and close friend.
"Britney carried the girls and really got them focused in on doing the job," Saints coach Tim Wolf said. "Some of the best things happened in track at St. Charles East that ever happened this season. She definitely had a leading role in that."
Williams shrugs her shoulders and admits she knows no other way than to be active.
"She's always been a really strong and a really good leader on the team," Shead said. "She always tries to make sure we all are comfortable and we all are doing our best."
Apart from the late summer/early fall stretch of her sophomore year that saw her sidelined with a right foot fracture, Williams has devoted herself to balancing training with music and academics. Williams graduated with a 5.46 grade-point average on a 5.0 scale, ranking 32nd in a class of more than 500.
For a time this spring, Wolf added Williams and Shead to the the 4x800 lineup on a whim. The pair was part of a county-record run in that event at the April 26 Kane County Meet. Later in the night, Williams ran the anchor for the 4x400 that set a county standard with a time of 3:59.89.
Three weeks later, the 4x400 was more than nine seconds faster at state, one of many breakthrough performances for the team.
"All of the hard work that we put in all season just came together beautifully," Williams said. "I always say this, but I'm just so proud of everyone and amazed at what we did. You go into the season and expect great things and you don't necessarily think state champion or all the relays make it to state. You just think positive.
"So I didn't really have a specific goal. So to do what we did is just amazing."
Once a teammate of Shead's with the Aurora Flyers track club during the summer, Williams elected to train on her own this summer as she adds a new activity to the mix.
She's working a summer job at Otter Cove Aquatic Park in St. Charles, where a few people are liable to recognize Williams.
Fine by her.
"She knows how to rally kids. She knows how to pick up kids," Wolf said. "She's involved in all other aspects of track and field, not just herself. She's really connected to everything."