Seth Williams figures things out pretty fast.
Less than a year ago, the 14-year-old Rock Falls freshman picked up a Fender Stratocaster. Today he’s able to pull off blistering riffs by the likes of British power metal band DragonForce and Metallica. And we’re not talking mid-’90s alternative Metallica. Think double-bass-laden, mind-numbingly fast mid-’80s Metallica.
Oh, and he figured out the whole cross country thing pretty quick, too. After joining the team a couple of weeks into the season, Williams was posting 21-minute times. Now he’s finishing off 3-mile courses in the 17:20 range.
After Williams won the Big Northern Conference junior-varsity race Oct. 13 at Centennial Park in 17:30, his coach Mark Truesdell knew he was ready for the big-time and presented him a varsity jersey last Friday.
“That was awesome,” Williams said. “It was astounding for me.”
“In the past, it’s always been pretty straighforward who the top seven were going to be,” Truesdell said. “This time, it was pretty stressful. We went with Seth because he just continues to improve.”
Last Saturday, Williams was the 41st runner to hit the chute at the Class 1A Rock Falls Regional Meet at Centennial Park.
He made another investment this past week: spikes.
“That’ll help me shave off some time,” Williams said.
About an hour before Williams won the BNC JV race, his mentor, Brandt Cole kicked to a title in the varsity race. The senior can relate to Williams’ transformation this season.
“I used to suck,” Cole said. “It’s a learning experience. The more you do it, the more you learn and pick up on things.”
Despite a phenomenal pedigree – his father, Jeff, was a three-time state qualifier at Prophetstown and his grandfather was an outstanding sprinter – Williams basically had to learn how to run.
Cole offered his expert opinion on what needed tweaking.
“Everything,” Cole said.
“My form was horrible this year,” Williams said. “I wasn’t picking up my legs, I wasn’t moving my arms and my breathing was horrible. Brandt helped me with that and several others helped out, too.”
“The biggest thing was he just needed to relax,” Cole said. “Kids get so uptight and nervous thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’ve gotta run fast.’ To be fast, you’ve just got to relax, calm down and enjoy it.”
Williams was also boosted by Cole’s impassioned pre-race speeches.
“Those were some of my best races,” Williams said. “I’d never gotten speeches like that before.”
All seven of the varsity Rockets might need to run the race of their season at Oregon Park West to qualify for state.
“If they all break out and run their best race, it’s a real possibility to make state,” Cole said. “Everyone has to step up, and I do, too. There’s no room for error.”
Truesdell figures there will be five teams duking it out for the last two spots on what he calls a “blue-collar” course.
“It’s not a burner,” he said. “If you go out too hard, you’re going to get beat up, but if you go out too slow, it’s game over. We’ve got a strategy in place. We know what we have to run. Everyone’s going to have to come through.”
Regardless of the outcome, Williams has his band, Paradox, to fall back on. His bandmates just need to find some gear and a practice space.
Williams doesn’t hesitate when asked why he picked up the guitar.
“It’s just to impress girls,” Williams said.
The kid’s a quick learn.