When Keith Williams lost his love for football after his sophomore year at Arbor View, the former tight end and safety needed a fall sport to keep him busy and in shape for track season.
That’s when friend and fellow long-distance runner Ian Jackson stepped in and suggested cross country.
“He introduced me to cross country and I was like, ‘Maybe I should come out,’” recalled Williams, who wore an offbeat headband at his first practice. “I was scared to death the first day. I was like, ‘This is crazy.’
“When I first came to cross country, they looked at me kind of funny like, ‘Why are you wearing a headband?’ But it became a little trend. I like doing things outside the box.”
Williams’ rapid improvement has taken away from the bold fashion statement, and it’s also made Arbor View one of the top teams in Southern Nevada — one that is expected to compete for the Sunset Region title and possibly dethrone Spanish Springs at state this season.
“Spanish Springs is going to be tough,” third-year coach Sheina Torres said. “They have a great team and they put up great numbers. But we’re going to work and do anything we can to beat them.”
Williams and the Aggies may have given Southern Nevada a glimpse in their first race of the season last Saturday at Floyd Lamb Park. Williams finished second overall to lead the team, and Arbor View took three of the top six spots to run away with a victory.
Williams had just one thought after seeing Jackson place fifth (16.18) and Noah Ayala finish sixth (16.26).
“I never thought I’d be faster than Ian Jackson,” he said. “Last year, when he got one of the top spots at region I was like, ‘Ahh, this dude is incredible.’ Every meet he was getting one of the top spots. He pushes me every day. He’s just a great teammate.”
The camaraderie, mutual respect and healthy competition between Williams, Jackson, Ayala and Andrew Parker are what make the Arbor View boys so dangerous. A year after winning their first region title, the Aggies are looking to up the ante this season.
“We’re just looking to have a better chance and really make a run at the state title,” said Jackson, who made the all-state first team last year. “I know we have to work hard because Spanish Springs is returning a lot of fast kids. The north is tough, especially when you have to go up there to race. But we’re trying to make a run at them.”
Arbor View finished fourth at state at Craig Ranch Park last year, behind McQueen, Green Valley and Spanish Springs.
But in their first race of this season, the Aggies won in convincing fashion. Torres said she expects more of that this season, and hinted the team’s top runner could alternate on a race-to-race basis.
If recent history is any indication, Jackson should be the team’s top runner. The senior said he enjoys having all the competition from his teammates.
“It’s a lot easier to work hard just because you have those guys pushing you,” he said. “It would be a lot harder if you were the one guy on the team. It just helps me be a better runner and teammate.”
Arbor View has thrived on that kind of teamwork to become a state title contender.
“I just want to run until my legs go numb and I want (Jackson) to be alongside me and a couple of my other teammates,” Williams said. “So we can lead this team to victory.”
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at email@example.com or 702-383-0430. Follow @af_ferguson on Twitter.
2016-17 Class 4A State Meet boys results:
1. Spanish Springs 49
2. Green Valley 88
3. McQueen 99
4. Arbor View 106
5. Douglas 109