Williams, Sweet make noise at state indoor track meet

Published 9:45 am Thursday, February 23, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Cooper Williams took fifth in the state in the shot put and Austin “AJ” Sweet grabbed seventh in the pole vault in the indoor state championships at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem.

It will be fascinating to see where the Davie duo goes from here because they are doing awesome things as a sophomore and freshman, respectively.

One of the first things you think about in regard to Williams is his amazing bloodlines. His oldest brother Spencer earned a track-and-field scholarship to North Carolina after becoming a four-time state champ at Davie. He won outdoor state titles in the shot put in 2021 and 2022, the outdoor state title in the discus in 2022 and the indoor state title in the shot put in 2022. Now he’s a freshman thrower for the Tar Heels. Another brother, Davie senior Palmer Williams, is headed to Baylor on a football scholarship after setting the record for yards per punt last fall.

In the indoor state meet on Feb. 11, Cooper Williams heaved the shot put 50-05.25 – which marked his third personal best of the day – to finish fifth out of 21 competitors. What made the fifth even more impressive: The top four were all seniors – Leesville Road’s Tony Taylor (55-03.25), Cuthbertson’s Gatlin Lundy (53-01.25), Providence’s Devin Coleman (52-05.25) and Glenn’s Jahnaul Ritzie (51-06.50).

“Cooper was amazing,” Davie coach Rob Raisbeck said. “In order to qualify for states, Cooper had to throw 45-3 and he threw (a then-personal best) 45-5. He just went nuts at the state meet and improved his all-time best three times. So he PR’d by five feet, which is just absurd. He is by far the No. 1 sophomore in North Carolina, and that makes him No. 13 in the U.S. in the sophomore class. And on top of that, he’s now only two inches behind Spencer’s best throw indoors as a sophomore.”

Yes, it’s mind-boggling how good Spencer became during his Davie career, and Cooper is on track to be right there – if not better – by the time he’s done in 2025.

“As a freshman, Cooper hadn’t put it together mentally, but somewhere along the lines of this fall and into the winter, it just clicked for him and he really started training much better,” Raisbeck said. “Now that he’s seen more success with that huge five-foot PR, he’s really got the bug now.”

Williams said he was “extremely happy” to take fifth.

“I was lucky to have a few weeks to prepare,” he said. “I had been sending a lot of film to coach Pete (Szelwach) – he’s a guy in Charlotte I like to visit – and my brother, so I had been getting really good coaching. Now all I’m thinking is what can I do to get better? I definitely credit more than half of what I know to Spencer. He trained me, he taught me all the basics and even now he’s still coaching me to an extent.”

Freshman Phenom

Sweet started pole vaulting about a year and a half ago. He proved to be a natural.

“I went to a pole vault camp in High Point called the Vault House, and my first day I jumped 6-6,” he said. “I still go there about twice a week.”

He went 12-06 in the state meet to take seventh out of 13. That was an astonishing accomplishment in a field that included five seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and one freshman (Sweet). The top six were Wakefield sophomore Jack Tan (14-00), Weddington junior Eli Clark (13-06), Panther Creek senior Reagan Wise (13-06), Cuthbertson senior Lawson Windsor (13-00), Leesville Road senior Noah Smith (13-00) and East Chapel Hill junior Jack Adler (12-06).

“It’s incredible,” Williams said of Sweet’s freshman season. “To think about (seventh in the state) as a freshman is just mind-boggling. I can tell he’s going to be really good someday.”

“Austin is tremendous,” Raisbeck said. “He’s improved by about two feet over the last six months or so. If you look at the 1A/2A, 3A and 4A meets, there’s only one other freshman in the state that qualified for states in the pole vault. I think Austin is two feet better than any other freshman in the state, and he is No. 13 in the U.S. in the freshman class. I think we’ll have him on the podium (top four) next year.”

Sweet works on his craft relentlessly.

“He’s been practicing some with a 15-foot pole, and as he gets stronger and matures, I think he could go 15 feet next year,” Raisbeck said. “He’s got to get upper-body strength, but he’s got a lot of potential. We’ll just have to see if he can keep it up between his freshman and sophomore years. The Vault House is an indoor facility and a lot of kids go there, so he’s getting the best coaching. I think that’s one of the many reasons why he’s going to continue to get a lot better.”

At the beginning of the Davie indoor season, Sweet was vaulting 11-6; his personal record is now a Davie record 13 feet.

“I started track when I was around 6 years old, and I mostly did high jump up until I started pole vaulting,” Sweet said. “Then that became my main track event. I was the only freshman in the (state) competition, so just going was pretty good. This year I want to hit 14 feet. I think that would be pretty good as a freshman, and I’m wanting to go to college as a pole vaulter.”

Notes: Williams and Sweet posted six points between them as Davie finished tied for 29th out of 48 teams. … Williams will compete in the New Balance Nationals Indoor Championship in Boston in March. “And he has vowed to eclipse his brother’s (sophomore) mark (of 50-7.25),” Raisbeck said. Williams said: “I’m right there at it. I have one more meet for indoor season.” … Cooper reported that Spencer is having a strong freshman year for the Heels. “He’s had a really good freshman year,” he said. “He’s preparing for the big meets coming up in the ACC.”