For someone who initially only practiced with his middle school track & field team, Saxton Williams has gone on to have a record-breaking career at Brookfield East.
Thinking back to when he first participated in track & field, Williams thought back to 7th grade at Pilgrim Park Middle School.
"I went out for track in 7th and 8th grades so I could stay in shape," Saxton said. "But I only practiced with the team because I played basketball with my AAU team."
So why did he get involved with track & field his first year at Brookfield East?
"Me and my friends wanted to do it together. I really didn't like it my freshman year. The workouts were too hard; I was really tired after practice," he laughed.
"When I came back for my sophomore year, my (event) coach at the time (Jason Kasmarick) was one of the key guys (to fire him up). They (the coaching staff) were looking for me to grow this year. That really made me take a step up because they saw my potential. I could be really good. That made me start to like track. I was surprised at first, but I'm glad they saw that in me."
Head track & field coach Mike Steiner first saw Williams on the football field as he was the freshman coach.
"I could see at football practice that he had certain skills which would allow him to be a good track athlete," Steiner said. "That was my first encounter with him. I saw his speed, saw his athleticism, which really caught my eye as a potential track athlete."
It didn't take Steiner and the coaches long to know they had something special come track season in the spring.
"Within a day or too, you could see he was going to be really good," Steiner said "He's going to be special. He's got ability that most kids don't have. We knew after the first practice he had some special talent."
So what exactly did Steiner see?
"He's fast. That jumps out at you," he laughed. "His stride length points to a good potential in the events he's good at. His physical attributes, if you are a track coach, you would recognize them.
"He has the ability to run and run fast when he's tired. That equates into the longer spring races that he's really good at. He's probably considered an elite, 200, 400 sprinter. His times don't say he's the best, but we don't run the season in those events."
He has been to state three straight seasons.
As a sophomore at the state tournament he teamed with Peter Raymonds, Tommy Schwarz and Drew Bullen in the 4x400 relay and finished third and again with Mario Carr, Raymonds and Bullen in the 4x200 relay, taking fifth.
His junior year was even better, as the Spartans won the state championship and Williams and his relay teammates had two state titles and a second place finish.
Williams, Avery Barnes, Will Schmidt and Bullen took first in the 4x200 relay and Williams, Carr, Barnes and Bullen won the 4x400 relay. Williams, Morris Seaton, Schmidt and Bullen finished second in the 4x100 relay.
Williams talked about his first state-tournament experience.
"I was really nervous (as a sophomore)," he said about his first time. "I was out there on the track. On day one I was really nervous. Then day two came and I was still really nervous and my coaches could see it. They were right outside the fence and watching me run. I calmed down, but it was my first time as a sophomore and I was really nervous."
Having that experience under his belt helped him last season.
"It helped a lot because coming back my junior year we had a lot of newer guys going to state," he said. "So I could lead by example and show them like it's not really that big a deal. You just do your job and you'll be fine. There was nothing to be nervous about."
He’s competitive and he can hunt kids down. We get the stick (baton) to him in a relay and he can catch a kid. That’s a unique skill the kid has…But in flat-out track terms, he’s fast. That’s his strength. He’s fast.”
- Coach Mike Steiner
Williams will be busy during the regular season, taking part in the 100, 200 and 400 runs, the long jump and the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relays. This week he won the 100, 200 and 300 meter events at the Greater Metro Conference Championships.
"His long jump has shown big improvement this year," Steiner said. "He didn't work on it a lot last year. He has worked on it more this year and he's jumping well.
"He's been in all the relays, all of the opens, he's put good times out there. He's one of the better track athletes in our league. He's good. He's got three school records and a state record."
Williams enjoys running on the relay teams and said it meant more when they won as a team.
"Everybody has to trust that each guy does their part," he explained. "To know their role and what they're there to do. I like to help the team. So If I'm on a relay and we win, I feel I helped the team more than if I win an individual event."
Winning two state relay titles and finishing second in a third was very satisfying.
"It felt good because we put a lot of work into that season and you go out on top," Saxton said. "Going there (at state) we had a target on our back because we were good the year before. Everyone knew we were going to be good. We knew we were better because we had more people. We knew if everyone would go up there and perform well we'd win and it would be unbelievable."
Having lost several key people, Williams said other teams have talked friendly trash before meets.
"This year everybody is saying we're not going to be as good because we lost a lot of key guys," Saxton said. "When they see us at track meets or see me warming up, they come over and kind of trash talk - it's not serious it's funny. Everyone is out there to compete, but everyone is out there to beat us."
Steiner talked about one of Williams key strengths - something the average fan might not think about.
"He's competitive and he can hunt kids down," Steiner said. "We get the stick (baton) to him in a relay and he can catch a kid. That's a unique skill the kid has. I think his ability to run kids down is a definite strength. He's explosive. He has some natural ability as far as explosiveness.
Steiner added that Saxton is quick to make adjustments.
"He's still progressing. His block starts are still a work in progress, but he's pretty coachable," he said. "When we tell Saxton what to do, he'll do it. He's coachable and when you are an athlete that is a definite need that a coach is looking for. You want your kids to be coachable."
Then Steiner laughed and added.
"But in flat-out track terms, he's fast. That's his strength. He's fast."
Being a senior and one of the best players on the team, Williams had a talk before the season about leadership with his coach.
"Steiner talked to me before the season and said I have to be that go-to guy this year," Williams said. "He knows in the years past I don't like the limelight. I'm more of a being in the background guy.
"I was like shaking my head 'no' and he was laughing because he knows that's a whole another thing for me. But I know I have to do it. Other guys will be looking to me to be a leader so I have to do it."
Saxton says he tries to connect with his teammates off the field as well.
"A lot of guys in the program, I talk to them outside the program when we're in school," he said. "I ask them how they've done in the previous week. Sometimes in practice when we're doing drills I will help them and show they how to do this or how to do that. Take them through it step by step. We have a connection. I don't just tell them 'do this do that.'"
Steiner explained that losing so many people through graduation has dropped the leadership role on Williams.
"He leads by example at times; kids look up to him because he's good," he said. "He has a presence that the younger kids recognize. He's in a different environment. The kids around him have graduated and he's worked to try to take on that leadership role. No matter who it is, we work to try and develop those leadership skills and it's always a work in progress."
When asked about his goals, Saxton showed he was a team-first athlete.
"As a team I just want us to be successful," he said. "I want us to win the triple crown (conference indoor, relays, outdoor). That's a huge thing for us. Even if we don't win state, it will be nice to go there again.
"As an individual - I just want to help my team win."
QUESTIONS FOR SAXTON WILLIAMS
- FAVORITE FOOD: Hamburgers
- FAVORITE MUSIC: Chris Brown, Popular music.
- FAVORITE MOVIE: Iron Man 2, Action Movies.
- FAVORITE TV SHOW: The Office
- FAVORITE CLASS: English.
- FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Mexico.
- WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX? Play basketball.
- FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY: Menomonee Falls
- MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: Setting state record in 4x400 relay.
- WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE? Study business and participate in track & field in college.