It's easy to roll your eyes when someone compares an 11-year-old Florida track star to Sanya Richards-Ross. Only this time it's different. This time the analogy comes from James "Tennessee" Lance, who mentored the four-time Olympic gold medalist.
“Briana (Williams) reminds me a lot of Sanya, even the way she stays upright running,” Lance told The Miami Herald. “Both got that raw speed, Briana is just bigger. At such a young age, how Briana gets out of the blocks is amazing. I think Briana has as good a top-end speed as Sanya did. Briana is something special.”
Only a fifth-grader, Williams trains at the Miramar (Fla.) Optimist Track Club under Lance, who helped guide Richards-Ross to four straight 100-meter dash state titles and nine individual championships from 1999-2002 in all at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas High.
Richards-Ross' time of 52.51 seconds in 2002 still resides atop the Florida prep record books. The 28-year-old won gold in the same event and anchored the winning 4x400-meter relay squad at this past summer's London Olympics.
Meanwhile, Williams has won just about every race she's ran since taking up track in 2011. She swept the 100-meter dash at both the USATF and AAU Junior Olympics, won the 200-meter dash at the AAU Junior Olympic Games and anchored Miramar Optimist Track Club's bantam (ages 9-10) record-setting relay squad at both events.
For those counting at home, that's five gold medals. Heck, Miramar City Hall declared Sept. 24, 2012 "Briana Williams Day," according to The Miami Herald feature. Currently, Williams' top times in the 100-meter dash (12.87) and 200-meter dash (26.29) would have earned her a spot at Florida's high school state meet this spring.
According to a post by her mother Sharon Simpson on trackmom.com, Williams and Richards-Ross speak from time to time, since Simpson and the Olympian's parents -- both of Jamaican descent -- are friends. In fact, Williams did an oral presentation on Richards-Ross for a West Park (Fla.) Annunciation Catholic Elementary School project. The 2006 IAAF World Athlete of the Year hosts the presentation on her website.
As Williams told The Miami Herald, “A lot of people tell me I stride like Sanya Richards so that makes me happy.” Fifth-graders just have a knack for making things simple.
And Richards-Ross isn't the only comparison Williams is drawing. Just ask Trinidad and Tobago's four-time Olympic medalist Ato Boldon, who also served as a sprints analyst for NBC during the 2012 London Olympics.
“I am always wary when they are this good, this young," he told The Miami Herald. "However, I think Briana will be the exception in the way that Sanya Richards-Ross was the exception, the way that Allyson Felix was the exception and Usain Bolt was the exception. Because I think that Briana has a combination of talent and a group of people to keep her very grounded, myself included.”
OK, maybe now we're getting ahead of ourselves. Bolt owns the world record in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and Felix is a four-time Olympic gold medalist like Richards-Ross. Except, even Felix appears to be on board with Williams.
"I heard about all your success," the 27-year-old sprint sensation said in a video posted on Miramar Optimist Track Club's Facebook page. "I know you have a really bright future, so all the best. Keep focused, and I'll be looking out for you."