April 24th, 2024

Canada’s Morales Williams’s world-best 400m effort shows rapid progression

By Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press on March 1, 2024.

Christopher Morales Williams’s progression has been as rapid as his world-best performance last Saturday was shocking. Morales Williams, of Vaughan, Ont., is seen in action for the University of Georgia during the NCAA Southeastern Conference indoor championships, in Fayetteville, Ark., in a Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-University of Georgia, Wesley Hitt, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Christopher Morales Williams’s progression has been as rapid as his world-best performance last Saturday was shocking.

The 19-year-old from Vaughan, Ont., a sophomore at the University of Georgia, won the NCAA Southeastern Conference indoor title in the men’s 400 metres with a time of 44.49 seconds – an indoor world record, until it wasn’t ratified.

“For my progression, last year I came in (the) middle of the year so it was a little bit hard for me to get used to the program while I was competing,” Morales Williams told reporters on Zoom on Thursday. “But I knew that once I did get used to it, there would be a big jump I think in my progression.

“So this year, having the full base training and everything “¦ definitely helped me get a lot faster. And I got a significant peak in my abilities but it wasn’t too much of a surprise.

“I think the only thing that really surprised me the most was running the world’s fastest time. I didn’t think I would’ve run that fast at that time, but I did know that I was ready to do something really good.”

Former Olympic medallist and Canadian sprinter Tony Sharpe began training Morales Williams when he was in Grade 7, and the youngster went on to break the Grade 9 Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations record in the 400.

However, the pandemic took two years of competition from him. Sharpe’s plan shifted to going to meets in the United States, so Morales Williams stayed in shape and kept his name on college radars.

He went on to win the OFSAA titles in the 200 – which he broke the record in – and 400, and silver in the 100 in Grade 12. In the spring of 2022, Sharpe and Morales Williams went to Georgia, giving Bulldogs coach Caryl Smith Gilbert a chance to see him run the 400.

“His coach Tony Sharpe, I have a relationship with him,” Smith Gilbert, who had coached Andre De Grasse at the University of Southern California, told reporters over Zoom on Wednesday. “He was Andre De Grasse’s coach. So when he tells me somebody’s good, I tend to believe it at this point.”

Smith Gilbert, however, didn’t have a full scholarship available. So Sharpe agreed to train Morales Williams and send him for the winter semester in January 2023, which Smith Gilbert found a scholarship for.

“With talent like Christopher, you need to get them in the right hands and while there are a lot of good coaches in this NCAA system, you know, you really have to do your due diligence, understand the resumes of the best coaches in the system,” Sharpe said in a phone interview. “Caryl undoubtedly is one of the premier coaches, not just in the NCAA, but on the planet in terms of sprinters.”

Fast forward to 2024. Morales Williams set the Canadian indoor 400 record at 46.05 on Jan. 20 in Boston. He then reset that mark at 45.39 on Feb. 9 at the Clemson Tiger Paw Invitational.

Morales Williams also owns the Canadian 300 record, which he set on Jan. 13 at Clemson with a time of 32.47 seconds.

On Saturday, he bested 2022 world champion and American Michael Norman’s mark of 44.52 – that also wasn’t ratified in 2018 – and the official world record of 44.57 of American Kerron Clement from 2005.

“I’m really excited to see what Christopher does through the rest of this season and in the years ahead,” De Grasse said in a statement. “To hear Christopher say that my accomplishments and roots with the Speed Academy Track Club have inspired him is pretty special. I’m really proud of the work of the Andre De Grasse Family Foundation and all our supporters.

“Our collective investment early on with athletes like Christopher has led to dozens of young people earning scholarships and university degrees. If someone goes on to set a world record, that’s a bonus.”

With his time qualifying him for the Paris Olympics this summer, Morales Williams now has his goals set higher.

“My goal for this year was to make Paris and be on the Olympic team,” he said. “But maybe I could put my standards a lot higher, shoot for the stars, try to maybe hit the podium for the Olympics in the 400 as well as also maybe hit the podium for our relay team as well.

“And then just for years to come, stay healthy, hopefully I can have the chance of winning a world championship or maybe even the Olympics in 2028, you know, win that, that will be my goal now.

“I feel as though I have a chance now instead of just running and not really feeling so confident in myself all the time.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2024.

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