Fast Finisher Morales Williams Is Just Getting Started

Now the Collegiate Recordholder, Christopher Morales Williams next covets the NCAA indoor crown — won last year by ’23 Georgia senior Elija Godwin. (ERROL ANDERSON/THE SPORTING IMAGE)

NO ONE SAW IT coming. Not the insiders, not the media, no one. Not even Christopher Morales Williams, who says, “I was hoping maybe 44.74, just 0.01 faster than the school record. That was just my goal for the meet. Honestly, I wasn’t too sure. I was thinking maybe 44.8, but not 44.49.

“That was unexpected.”

Indeed, in blazing to his overwhelming 400 win at the SEC Championships, the Georgia soph from Toronto suburb Vaughan, Ontario, recorded history’s fastest-ever indoor time.

World Record? Well, that gets complicated. World Athletics requires false-start detection blocks to have been used for ratification purposes. Though the timing company had them on hand, prior to the meet the coaches reportedly decided not to use them, ostensibly to keep the meet on schedule and surely also because no one imagined a World Record coming.

Morales Williams says he is not frustrated by that technicality. “I found out the next day. It just means it’s not ratified… Honestly, I realized it’s not the World Record, but it’s still the world’s fastest time, which means the same thing to me. So honestly it doesn’t bother me at all. At least I know I’m on the right track. As long as I have this time, I think I could do it again eventually — for years to come.”

The stunning aspect of it all is that his previous PR was only 45.39, so he dropped his best by a massive 0.90, an unheard-of figure at this level. His outdoor best remains the 45.48 he recorded in winning the Canadian title last summer.

“I already knew I could run 44. It was just a matter of time for me to actually do it. I wasn’t sure I was going to have that huge of a jump at that meet. I thought maybe at Nationals, but not at SECs.”

One thing that wasn’t a surprise to Bulldog coach Caryl Smith Gilbert was the powerful surge that Morales Williams unleashed off the final turn. “His practices indicated that. Karim [Abdel Wahab] has done a really good job with him. I do the speed and the weight room, he does the 400 part, which is very important. He was telling me, based on a lot of his interval runs and lactate tolerance workouts, he was finishing really, really well. And he was doing it repeatedly with short recovery. So we’ve been working at that.

“I’ll say this, if you go back and look at the splits from a lot of his races on Flash Results from last year, he was running 22 seconds the first 200, and then he would always storm home. So I think he just has that.”

It’s hard not to regard Morales Williams as the NCAA favorite now, in addition to being a possible Olympic threat. Not a bad place to be for a soccer player who was not at all excited about running track at first. “Soccer was the sport I played my whole life, since I was 3 years old. That’s my favorite sport; it still is. I wanted to represent Team Canada in the World Cup. My best thing in soccer was that I could kick the ball and just chase after it — nobody could catch me.

“My dad would always say, ‘You’re so fast. You should try track.’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ And then my older brother, he got into track and then my sister got into track and then my neighbor… At the same time, I started to get a little bored of soccer. We didn’t have a lot of people showing up to the games and I just didn‘t want to play anymore.” So at around age 12, he “followed the footsteps” of his siblings and gave track a try.

“I was good at it,” he says. “I kept doing it and I enjoyed it. The 400 wasn’t necessarily my favorite event. I liked the 200, but eventually I realized that I might be pretty good at [the 400].” In grade 9, he won the Ontario championship in the 400. “After that, my coach, Tony Sharpe, told me, ‘You’re never going to get out of the 400. This is your event.’”

If that name rings a bell, it may be because Sharpe won a bronze on Canada’s 4×1 in the ’84 Olympics and later became coach of the Speed Academy, the Toronto-area training group that nurtured a young Andre De Grasse.

Morales Williams says that Olympic 200 champ De Grasse has been one of his major role models. “Much more than just being an inspiration, he’s done a lot for our team in many other ways. Whenever he hosts an event, we’ll volunteer to help him out. I look up to him. I would even just wear Puma clothes to school just because Andre was sponsored by Puma — it was just this weird thing I had when I was 13.

“Especially when he won that gold in Tokyo, that was actually around the same time when I started to get back into track because of COVID and all the lockdowns. It was just pretty cool watching him and now, hopefully, I could be like him.”

That year, just after his 17th birthday, Morales Williams ran a PR 47.59. A few weeks earlier he had hit a 200 best of 21.41.

In 2022, he improved to 21.03/20.98w and 46.27. He took 2nd in the Canadian nationals 400 and made it to the semis of the World U20 in Cali, Colombia. He came away with a bronze for leading off the Canadian 4×4.

That — and a phone call from coach Sharpe — got him onto Smith’s radar at Georgia. Recalls Smith, “When he tells me somebody’s good, I tend to believe it. A high school kid that can run 20-point and has good size and hasn’t trained very long, that coach Sharpe is endorsing? We gotta try it. I mean, I just think he’s going to be good.”

Says Morales Williams, “When I first heard about Georgia, coach Sharpe told me about Coach Caryl and everything. I knew Coach Caryl because [she had coached] Andre De Grasse, so when I heard ‘Coach Caryl,’ I was, ‘Yeah, she’s at USC.’ And then my coach tells me actually she just moved to Georgia. I was like, ‘Alright, that’s fine for me.’ It’s not like I was comparing Georgia to other schools or comparing coach Caryl to other coaches because I didn’t know much else and I knew she made Andre. That was honestly all I wanted was just following in his footsteps by going to her.”

Year 1 at Georgia presented a learning curve challenge. “It was kind of hard for me. I started to do weights, which I hadn’t really done before too much. I was practicing 4–5 days a week, which I hadn’t done before. I hit a wall where it was hard. I was doing great at practice but when it came to a meet, I felt very exhausted. That was happening each week until slowly I started getting the hang of it.

“I was seeing drastic improvement in practice. I would be hitting the times; it was just, whether or not I’d be able to do it at a meet. I never actually had a race strategy. I would just try to run as fast as the guy in front of me and then try to pass him at the end.”

He didn’t make it to the SEC final in the 400 last year, but in the relays he was a big contributor, running on the Bulldog 4×4 that was NCAA Indoor runner-up. The same foursome ran 2:59.63 for 3rd at the SEC outdoor meet.

Now he is primed for the NCAA Indoor and he says that running a 400 with electronic blocks has him excited. “I’ll definitely use it as motivation. It’s pretty good to have that little chip on my shoulder to be like, ‘You know, it wasn’t ratified. Let’s see if I can do it again.’”

He adds, “There’s a lot more to come. The Olympics has always been on my radar. The only difference is that instead of just making it to the Olympic final, I think the goal now is to make the Olympic podium.” ◻︎

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