Williams to be MV girls cross country coach

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FORTVILLE — When he didn’t think he deserved one, Brian Williams got what turned out to be a life-changing opportunity.

It helped lead to a college education and a 30-plus year coaching career.

Williams, who ran and coached at Anderson University, and has had coaching stops at Ball State University and Lapel, Frankton and Elwood high schools, has been hired to be the girls cross country coach at Mt. Vernon High School.

“For me it goes back to my (Lapel) high school coach, Dave Fuqua,” Williams recalled. “In track, as a freshman, I was 5-feet, 2-inches tall and weighed 98 pounds. I got last place in the conference in the 800-meter run. I turned in my uniform and Mr. Fuqua asked me, “Are you going to run cross country?”

“In my head I’m thinking, ‘This guy is nuts.’ He’s asking a kid that got last in the 800 to run on his cross country team. The really cool thing, he didn’t know I was going to grow 10 inches and end up being a really good distance runner.”

“For me, it all goes back to that. Somebody saw something in me that I didn’t know was there. He showed some interest in me and asked me to be a part of something. That’s the way my dad coached little league teams. For me, I want to help kids to do the same thing he did for me, to see the potential they have.”

Williams graduated from Lapel High School in 1984. He ran at AU, then joined head coach Larry Maddox as one of the Ravens assistant coaches. He was an assistant from 1988-2000. He coached at Frankton from 2000-12. He left to become the head coach at AU, and has since coached at Lapel, Frankton and most recently at Elwood.

He will teach eighth grade Mathematics and Algebra I at Mt. Vernon Middle School.

In all, Williams has 34 years of coaching experience.

At Mt. Vernon, as far as cross country coaches go, it doesn’t make him the most experienced coach. He joins Bruce Kendall, who will be starting his 42nd year with the boys team.

“We go way back to 1983 or 1984,” Kendall said. “He was running for Lapel and I had this monster team, the best we’ve had, and one of the best dual cross country teams. Jeff Wheeler won the state (in 1983) and we had another kid finish fifth. We won the semi-state with just 49 points. It was a fantastic team. (Williams) was running for Lapel, they didn’t have a good team, but our guys said (about Williams), that kid was hard to break.”

Every time I see Brian, I say, ‘You were hard to break.’”

Kendall said he sees a smooth transition with the ‘new’ coach.

“He applied for the job and he is wonderful with kids,” Kendall said. “Working with him is like working with someone I’ve worked with for 10 years. He is a perfect match. He teaches junior high math. He’s a wonderful coach, very knowledgeable and very easy to get along with.”

Williams, too, is looking forward to working with Kendall.

“He is just somebody I have known for quite some time,” Williams said. “My teams at Frankton, if we were beating Mt. Vernon, we were really achieving something. He was always the gold standard from my perspective.”

“I enjoy being around him. We have already had a number of conversations and we’re talking in different ways than I am used to,” Willliams added of their new relationship. “I am looking forward to working with him. He’s a good man and has been very, very successful. I’m certain there are things he can teach me and hopefully he’ll learn a little bit from me as well.”

Williams is getting a strong team, too.

Last season, the Marauders won the Hoosier Heritage Conference meet for the first time since 2010. They won the Hancock County Meet, finished second in the regional and placed 18th at one of the state’s strongest semi-states.

“They haven’t quite got where the boys are in taking that next step up,” Williams said. “The hope is in the next several years that making it to semi-state is not the goal, vying for one of the spots to make the state is in the cards. They have done very well. They came back after not running well at the sectional, and ran very well in the regional. At the semi-state, it is not easy.”

They graduated top runners Lydia Carrell, Morgan Tharp and Alexandra Overshiner, but return some girls with varsity experience, including seniors Melinda Cornelius, Madelyn Ludlow, junior Alexandria Jenson and sophomores Tenley Benz, and Emma Gale.

Williams was in administration during his time at Elwood, serving as both Dean of Students and Athletic Director. It wasn’t for him. He wanted to get back into teaching and coaching and work with kids.

“Mt. Vernon came up (with a teaching opening). With it being a growing school, I knew it would be a school that would be a good school to go to as far as teaching,” Williams said. “My wife happened to notice there was a girls cross country position open which certainly made it much more enticing at that point. I really wanted to make sure I could continue to coach.

Mt. Vernon has had pretty good cross country and track programs over the years and that was another piece of the puzzle, too.”

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