April 23rd, 2024

Canada’s Morales Williams riding with confidence as NCAA indoor 400m champion

By Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press on March 15, 2024.

Christopher 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*

The switch flipped for Christopher Morales Williams in the time of the 2023 outdoor season.

Last spring, the runner from Vaughan, Ont., learned to control his negative thoughts, discovered that it was OK to feel nervous before races, and built his confidence.

Morales Williams credits the change in philosophy for the recent addition of NCAA national champion to his growing resume.

The 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Georgia ran the fifth-best collegiate time ever at 44.67 seconds to win the men’s 400-metre title last Saturday in Boston at the NCAA indoor track and field championships.

“I used to kind of lack a lot of confidence in myself,” he said. “But for this year, I kind of switched it up and I kind of go more into the races thinking about how it would feel if I didn’t try my hardest.

“I go into the race not feeling so much pressure by just kind of striking it off, almost as if it’s not that big of a deal. It’s just like a game or like a video game or something. Just relaxing in the moment, so I don’t feel as tense.”

Morales went into U.S. nationals with plenty of eyes on him as he had set the all-time mark at 44.49 seconds just two weeks before at the Southeastern Conference championships. He ran the time despite having been sick.

Although his time wasn’t ratified as a world record due to a technicality, it didn’t take away from the attention on him. And the attention didn’t take away from his performance.

“Christopher has now proven that he’s able to withstand that pressure and still go out and execute, so this is a really good test for him, leading to the outdoor season,” said Tony Sharpe, Morales Williams’s coach at The Speed Academy Athletics Club in Pickering, Ont. “Outdoor NCAA championship is no joke. The SEC conference championships, if you’re not on your game, you’re not seeing the finals.”

Sharpe, a bronze medallist for Canada in the 4×100 relay at the 1984 Olympics, says the tougher competition will better prepare Morales Williams for the Paris Games.

“Those events leading into the Olympics are going to definitely be advantageous for him,” said Sharpe.

As for Morales Williams, there was no surprise in winning – just the thrill of having such momentum going into the upcoming outdoor season.

“It just felt great just because everything went according to plan,” he said. “Of course, I was very excited, very happy. I wasn’t as shocked “¦ I felt confident I was going to run well that day, and I did it.”

With Morales Williams having achieved qualifying times for the Paris Olympics and being the reigning Canadian 400 champion, Sharpe pointed to comments made by Georgia coach Caryl Smith Gilbert a couple of weeks ago.

Smith Gilbert praised the teen’s self-sufficiency, noting Morales Williams is never late, never misses practice, doesn’t skip the weight room, doesn’t have to be told not to eat anything bad for him, and hits the times he’s expected to in practice.

Sharpe shared those words with the athletes at his club, using Morales Williams’ dedication as an example.

“I said this is why he’s the best in the world,” Sharpe said. “He does everything just about perfectly and that’s a big statement. (There are) not too many faults – I don’t see any.

“And I saw this guy coming up through the ranks in high school, he would actually do his physics homework in between reps at practice with his MacBook. That’s Christopher.

“So you’ve got all the qualities that you want in a true champion. “¦ I’m excited about what lies ahead for Christopher. And from an advice perspective, I would say please don’t change a thing, man, you’re en route to do great things.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2024.

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