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Kerry Eggers on Sports: Benson speedster forced to bide his time with home workouts, online classes; 'It's boring'

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - MICAH WILLIAMSThe fastest high school sprinter in state history has been grounded by the coronavirus pandemic.

Though the Oregon School Activities Association hasn't canceled the entire track and field season, it's on hold. And it's possible the prep career of Benson High senior Micah (pronounced "Muk-eye") Williams is over before it even got started.

The state record-holder in the 100 (10.21) and 200 (21.03) meters competed once indoors this winter. Running against college competition at the Washington Indoor in Seattle in January, Williams finished third in his section of the 60 in 6.68 seconds. That turned out to be the nation's fastest prep time during the indoor campaign.

"But his toe was hurting, so we shut him down for the rest of the indoors," said Leon McKenzie, who is now an assistant coach after serving the Benson helm for 36 years.

Then the coronavirus shut everyone down.

"When he ran 6.60 indoors last year, that's equivalent to a low 10.1 (100 outdoors)," McKenzie said. "His goal this spring was to go sub-10.1, about 20.7 in the 200 and the low 47s in the 400. He wanted to put those out there so nobody could mess with them for a while.

"It was ambitious, but I've learned not to try to hold him back."

Williams, who is bound for Oregon next year, hopes at least part of his senior season at Benson will happen. If not, he won't cry over spilt milk.

"It's unfortunate to have this happen, but I can't be mad about it," he said. "I can't do anything about it. I just have to do what I can do to stay ready."

Unfortunately, that's not much. Williams hasn't run on the track since the season was suspended two weeks ago. In fact, he hasn't run at all.

"No point in running on the track and having my knees take a pounding," the 5-8 1/2, 175-pound Williams said. "I need to be in basic shape, but I don't need to be in peak shape. Since the season got (suspended), I've just been chilling."

OSAA rules prevent coaches working with athletes. Athletes can't train with teammates.

"I'm trying to do whatever I can indoors," Williams said. "We have an eliptical machine and a squat rack at home. I've been doing some core work and natural body exercises.

"Right now, it's train, sleep, clean, rest, ice, whatever. Nothing for me to do. It's boring."

Once spring term begins, Williams — who carries a 4.0 grade-point average — will take classes online to complete requirements for his graduation.

"This is my first time I've ever taken online classes," said Williams, who will major in human physiology at Oregon, looking at a career in physical therapy after he is done running track. "I like being in the classroom, rather than in front of a computer. It's harder for stay focused (with online classes)."

If there are no state championships, it will be doubly disappointing for Williams, who missed last year's finale because of foot and ankle injuries. He won the 100 and 200 in the Class 6A meet as a sophomore in 2017.

"If I can't run this year, that means it will be almost two years since I'll be able to compete in an outdoor meet (in 2021)," he said.

If Williams' prep career is over, at least he can look forward to the start of his college career. He took official visits to Oregon, Louisiana State and Southern Cal before deciding on the Ducks.

"It was a tough choice for him," McKenzie said. "He was thinking he wanted to get out of state and experience something new. After LSU and USC, he decided not to take the other trips that were scheduled. He had a great visit at Oregon."

"I decided it was the place for me," Williams said. "I liked the coaches. I felt a connection. And I wanted to stay close (to Portland) to be an inspiration to the community, to leave a legacy that will go on."

One benefit: His mother, Andrea Green, and grandmother, Janette Green, won't have to buy plane tickets to see their offspring perform.

"It won't be an a (financial) stress for them to come down to Eugene and watch me run," he said.

One of Williams' goals was to qualify for the Olympic Trials in Eugene in June. Due to the caronavirus, the date has been pushed back a year. There is also a World Juniors Championships scheduled in Kenya in the summer.

"If they pull the plug on everything, then Micah won't run this summer," McKenzie said. "It will be important for him to stay in general good condition and keep his weight down."

McKenzie and his sprint coach, John Mays, will pass the coaching baton to Oregon's staff, including sprint coach Curtis Taylor and strength and conditioning coach Jim Radcliffe.

"Micah really likes Curtis," McKenzie. "(Taylor) stays behind the scene, but he's a great one."

The summer before his junior year at Benson, Williams anchored the U.S. 4x100 relay unit to gold at the World U-20 Championships in Finland. McKenzie believes that was the tip of the iceberg.

"If he keeps his head to the grindstone, with Curtis and Jim and the state-of-the-art perks they have at Oregon, there is room for growth," McKenzie said. "We didn't try to do everything with him at Benson. His goal is to be one of the best. He has the ability, and he has put in the work.

"The next couple of years, I expect him to be one of the best in the U.S. He sets high goals, and I think it's there. He has to stay dead focused on what he wants. He can do it. He couldn't be in better hands."

The one-year delay in the Olympic Trials could benefit Williams, 18, who will be a year older and more mature.

"In the long run, it will be good," he said. "I'll be faster and better."

And in more optimal shape to contend for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team — if not next year, in 2024.

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