Hannah Williams a championship swimmer
by ERICH HILKERT
Mar 28, 2013 | 1660 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA—Hannah Williams does a lot of work both in the pool and out of the pool as a scholarship swimmer at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. Delta State’s women’s team recently won the New South Intercollegiate Swimming Conference championships, and the Talladega native said holding a scholarship and winning at a high level have made all her hard work more gratifying.

“It was exciting to win because we all had worked so hard,” Williams said. “We had to push each other and motivate each other because sometimes you wake up in the morning and you look at the workout and you just want to throw it against the wall and just be like ‘No, I don’t want to do this.’ But you have to remind yourself we’re working towards something and it was just really exciting. It felt awesome because a lot of people don’t realize swimmers give a lot in practice. We practice twice a day, four days a week and we practice ten times a week for two hours at a time. People don’t realize it’s not just getting in a pool. It’s also doing dry land and running and all other sports combined.”

Delta State, with a total of 18 swimmers on the women’s team, finished the NSISC Championships with 942 points to win first, beating out Henderson State University, who finished with 903 total points. The NSISC Championships were held at the Delta State Aquatics Center in February.

Typically, college swimmers compete in several different events with each swimmer being able to play a vital role to the team’s success. When a swimmer finishes in the upper level of the competition, they get points for their team even if they don’t finish in first place.

“In college swimming, it really is all about winning meets,” Williams explains. “But every person can contribute in some little way. This was a preliminary and finals meet, so you hoped to get into the finals. There’s 16 spots total, the first eight of those spots get into A-finals and that’s where you get the big points. The second heat of eight people is the consolation finals. You get a little bit of points, but you only get points awarded to first through third. If you get first in the A-finals, it’s a big deal.”

Williams, for instance, was able to place in the 500 yard freestyle event for six points, as well as the 100 yard butterfly for seven points. She also placed in the top eight for her primary event, the 200 yard butterfly, which gave her team 11 points.

Not every member of the swim team is awarded a scholarship.

“I’m so fortunate to have a scholarship, what little I have,” Williams said. “I don’t have a big one, but at least I can say that I have one. I think to get a scholarship what coaches are really looking for is potential and speed. If he sees that you have the potential to go faster, maybe your turns aren’t as fast as they could be or maybe your technique is kind of off and it could be better or maybe even you haven’t been lifting weights or you haven’t been doing some sort of dry land or something along with your swimming. He’s going to recruit you and give you a scholarship. But speed has a lot to do with it, and times. You can work towards getting a better scholarship. It’s not set in stone. If you don’t get a scholarship right then, you can work up. You’ll have to get faster, you’ll have to improve.”

Williams estimates she has been a swimmer since around the age of seven. She started swimming at the Spring Street Recreation Center and eventually swam for the Magic City Aquatic League before going to Delta State. Her older brother was also into swimming and she credits her dad, Neal Williams, for helping her get to where she is, but her mom, Lisa Williams, having been her long-time swimming coach, is credited with propelling her to a scholarship-level swimmer. According to Williams, her mom knew little about swimming but has learned enough through the years to become an MCAL coach.

“I owe everything to my mom,” Williams said. “My dad played an important part too, but my mom was definitely my coach, and she was the one who started getting me decent in swimming because she was practically the only coach. Her and Cal Elder, my coach for MCAL [Magic City Aquatic League] were practically the only coaches who gave me a chance in swimming to get into college. I owe them everything. My mom, she worked as an assistant coach to try to find out what it was like to coach, to do workouts and stuff like that. She is the one that kept me in it. I remember lots of times I would be like ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m tired of it.’ In swimming, you can plateau for a long time because maybe your body is changing or maybe your body is just acting up and you can’t go faster and a lot of times I just wanted to quit and she kept me going. She was like ‘No, no, you can do this. I have faith in you.’ She was the one that kept me doing it. I owe her everything for being in college now.”

Despite winning the NSISC Championships, the sophomore still has lofty goals that she hopes to achieve in the pool.

“I really want to make a two minutes and 12 seconds in my 200 butterfly,” Williams said. “My focus is the 200 butterfly. All throughout high school, I was obsessed with swimming. I have to admit: swimming took a toll on the way I acted towards people. I was a very bitter person. But now I realize swimming is not everything. You go to college for school and that is the main priority. So, if you’re doing bad in school because of your swimming or something like that, it is wise to quit swimming. I’ve realized that and it’s made me a better person I think and I’ve learned to respect swimming more because of that. I went to school because I wanted to study psychology and speech pathology and counseling. Yeah, I went to Delta because they had a really good team and that was my selling point, but if they hadn’t had psychology as my major or they weren’t so qualified in psychology, I wouldn’t have gone there. I’m glad I did because we won a conference championship. That’s going to be really cool wearing that ring around and people will be like ‘Hey, where’d you get that?’ and I’ll be like ‘Yeah, I swam in college.’ I’m not saying that swimming is not special to me, because it really is. Swimming was kind of like my outlet. It helped me get through a lot of stuff, and I think without swimming I probably would be different and probably would be a mean, bitter person. Swimming has helped a lot with stuff like work ethic and just everything.”