When a stress fracture in March ended Devon Williams' outdoor track season at Churchill High in Eugene, Ore., the 2008 Olympic hopeful and two-time All-Metro selection in both indoor and outdoor track from Towson Catholic thought it also might damage her chance to get a scholarship to a major Division I program.
"I prayed on it every night. I prayed to God, like, `Please, have the best schools - the ones that fit me the most - please have them still recruit me,' " said Williams, 17, who became the first female sophomore to be named The Sun's Athlete of the Year in the spring of 2005.
Williams believes her prayers were answered. She has signed a national letter of intent and will receive a full scholarship to Texas, the school announced on its Web site.
Last July, Williams began receiving calls from Texas and Auburn, the defending NCAA indoor and outdoor women's champions, respectively, as well as LSU, Tennessee and Michigan.
"All of the schools were great as far as academics offered, but Texas has been my dream school for the longest time. I've gotten a lot off of my chest, and now, I feel like a new person," said Williams, an A-student taking classes at Catonsville High who will graduate by January. "I'm going to run the 800 [meters], primarily, but we're also going to look at the 400 to work on my speed."
Williams, who's 5 feet 10, 136 pounds, said she was strongly influenced by coach Bev Kearney, who took over at Texas in 1993, coached it to NCAA outdoor titles in '98, '99 and 2005, and is known for having coached two women from Texas who helped the U.S. win the gold medal in the 1,600 relay in Athens.
"She understood that I was still recovering and said that she wanted me to take some time off, get healthy again, so that she could get me where I need to be," Williams said. "She sat me down and was straight up with me. She told me that she didn't want to put too much pressure on me as a freshman coming in, but that she had faith in me, and in her ability to get me ready to go to the Olympics in 2008."
After her sophomore year at Towson Catholic, Williams left Baltimore for Eugene, Ore., America's top track town where Broadneck's three-time Class 4A cross country champion, Matt Centrowitz, is headed to run for the University of Oregon, and also the site of the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials.
While competing in her third outdoors meet for Eugene's Churchill High, Williams suffered a stress fracture in her left shin, according to her then-coach George Walcott. Williams returned to Baltimore in May and enrolled at Catonsville, where she is taking the last two classes - government and English - she needs to graduate in January.
"I'm trying to finish up and get my grades, so that I can leave Jan. 6 to go to Texas," Williams said. "I know it will be different in college because everyone will be on my level and no one's going to give up their spot, willingly. I might be redshirted, but either way, eventually, I'll be ready to step up to the next level."