The track at Forest Park received a patch job last Tuesday, a welcome development for members of the boys’ track & field team that in recent months claimed the first two state titles (indoors and outdoors) in any boys’ sport in school history.
The improvements to even out thin areas in the black surface restricted use to part of the track that afternoon, but Mustaqeem Williams and Ricky Morgan didn’t let the price of progress stop their summer routine. The pair found an untouched area on the back straight away and got to work through the sweltering heat.
Following a dynamic warm-up led by Morgan’s father, Morgan crouched low in the blocks and worked on his starts with a clap from Williams simulating the gun. Then, they switched places.
Williams, the 2012-2013 boys’ winter track All-Met Athlete of the Year and the area’s premier short sprinter, stays busy in the summer with two-hour workouts at least four days per week and several club meets on his schedule. He doesn’t mind the heavy workload, in large part because he keeps his friend Morgan, a 400-meter specialist, with him for daily motivation.
“We pretty much go head-on every practice,” Williams said before the workout began in the Woodbridge school’s weight room. “We’re so competitive. We both want the same things. We have the same dreams, and we both go out there and fight for it. I think that’s the connection.”
“A lot of people say it’s like cheating for us,” Morgan added. “It’s a blessing to have him here to push me.”
Over the next few months, Williams will have to make a life-changing decision. He’s competed in both track and football since sixth grade, and as he looks toward his college future, he’ll have options.
Alabama has already offered a full track scholarship and many other top programs will be in the running for his services, including Florida and LSU, long his dream school. He and Morgan, who only met in ninth grade after attending different middle schools, have talked about staying together for college.
Williams has also intrigued college football coaches who believe his world-class speed will make him an instant asset. Coaches from Ohio State have talked with him about doing both sports, and Pittsburgh has shown heavy interest in him as a football player since his freshman year and also has a men’s track team.
Williams has shuffled back and forth between football and track workouts this summer and done his best to forget about the tough choice ahead.
“It’s hard,” Williams said. “Right now, I’m not trying to think about it, not trying to worry about it right now. It gets to the point where it’s overwhelming and then you get sidetracked.”
Monday through Thursday, he begins the evening at Pope John Paul the Great in Dumfries at practices for the Prince William County Panthers youth track club. The club serves local children between the ages of 8 and 18, and Ricky Morgan, Sr., the club’s coach, depends on his son and Williams to serve as an example for the next wave of talented runners.
(Two days per week, Morgan Sr., a former trainer in the U.S. Army, will put the pair through their own individual workouts with a mix of weight training designed to improve explosiveness and on-track drilling, sometimes at the Quantico Marine Corps base.)
Halfway through PWC Panthers practice, Williams will often head over to Forest Park to join the football team for its last hour of voluntary conditioning.
After suffering a hairline break in his left ankle late last fall, Williams thought about giving up football but ultimately decided “it really doesn’t make any sense” to quit now. He’s hoping to attend a team camp at James Madison with the Bruins later this month but isn’t sure how it will fit with his track competition schedule.
For the safety and wide receiver, it’s important to maintain a balance when he’s training for football. He places a priority on his track career: His immediate goal is to break 10 seconds in the 100 meters, and his long-term dream is to run in the Olympics. He wants to be prepared for football season to avoid injury, but he doesn’t want to get too big and risk losing a step.
At 5-foot-10, Williams has played football around 170 pounds but prefers to run at less than 160. Right now, he said he weighs about 157 pounds, staying there with a strict diet that features lean meats and healthy snacks. (Apple sauce in a squeeze tube is his favorite post workout treat, and after the state championship meet, his cheat was a stop at Chick-Fil-A.)
In the weight room, Williams focuses on low-weight, high-repetition exercises and also keeps a special focus on his legs. The regimen includes a few sets of jump squats to improve burst and swinging hammer curls to simulate running form, an exercise that Morgan found online used by Olympian Tyson Gay.
“I’ll try to pack on as much leg work as I can,” said Williams, who tries to take at least one day per week completely off during the summer. “I’ll need that for both football and track. I want them to be strong and fast.”
On the track, Williams, who won three individual gold medals at the 2013 Virginia AAA state meet, doesn’t want to let up because the summer offers more chances to compete against national competition.
He’s slated to run in four meets this summer through PWC Panthers, including the USATF junior Olympic championship in North Carolina and AAU junior Olympic championship in Michigan, both later this month.
Right now, Williams’ personal best for the 100 meters is 10.32 seconds, which he clocked at May’s Southern Track Classic. He’s looking to change that as soon as possible.
“My goal is to get faster every chance that I can,” Williams said. “Whether it’s in the fall, in the winter, in the spring, in the summer, I’m going to try to hit that 9 [seconds].”