Lauryn Williams seeks return to form

EUGENE, Ore. -- For the past year, as Lauryn Williams trained for these U.S. Olympic track and field trials, she held close the belief that the sprinter who led her country's efforts in the 100-meter dash in Athens and Beijing was still somewhere inside of her.

That belief was necessary because the results weren't coming for Williams, a Rochester native who won silver in the 2004 Games and finished fourth in '08. She had taken a year off from competition in '10 to do some soul searching, hoping to experience the normal life of a 20-something, figuring that she would return to the track and soon pick up where she left off.

It has been a humbling couple of years. But Williams, 28, finally may have had a breakthrough.

Her coach, Amy Deem, wanted Williams to run under 11 seconds before the trials, which begin today at University of Oregon's historic Hayward Field. Williams entered the Pure Athletics and NTC Last Chance Meet June 2 with a year-best time of 11.17 but fired off an 11.01 in the preliminaries, followed up by a 10.96 in the final.

The breakthrough wasn't so much in the time, which approached her personal-best 10.88, set in 2005 at the top of her game. It was that she felt good before the race and her performance matched that intuition.

So maybe, when she races tonight in the qualifying round and potentially Saturday in the semifinals and final, she can find the same chemistry between preparation and execution.

"The main thing was the feeling that I had," Williams said. "It's a matter of getting fit and getting race sharp. The feeling starts to come with time. I've never had it the first race of the season. The feeling is one of those indescribable things ... 'hey, everything is clicking.' "

This is likely to be Williams' final push at Olympic glory, and, if she is to make trip to London, it could be seen as her greatest accomplishment. She always has fashioned herself as a runner who rises to the occasion, and it appears as if this would be the ultimate test. Judging by the qualifying marks of runners such as Carmelita Jeter (10.70) and Allyson Felix (10.92), Williams likely would have to run one of the fastest races of her life seven years after she previously set a personal record.

"I'm excited about getting out there and going with what I got," Williams said. "At this point, there's no point whining or crying about soreness and stuff like that. I feel like I'm in just as good of shape as anybody else, and anyone can do it, and it might as well be me."

Williams will still have hope if she doesn't make the team in the 100. She will be competing in the 200 as well and says she has put more of an emphasis on that event than she did in her two previous trips to the trials.

The 200 will take place June 28-30.

Williams will be joined in the 100 and 200 by former Penn State sprinter Connie Moore, who won the 2010 U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 200. Moore, 30, was 0.01 away from making the '04 Olympic team in the 200.

"I'm going to the trials with the mindset of having fun," said Moore, a native of Chicago. "I've come to learn, when I look at my great races, my outlook was, I'm back on the playground playing with friends again, racing on the streets with no shoes and no socks on."

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