Olympic medalist Lauryn Williams honored in hometown of Rochester
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Lauryn Williams sat down in a rainbow-colored rocking chair, with a monkey painted on the seat, and looked out over what's known as the kindergarten well in Rochester Area School District's K-12 complex.
On the walls behind her were posters reading, “Way to go Lauryn,” and, “USA.” In front of her were seated Rochester's youngest students, many dressed in red, white and blue, and some wearing shirts with, “Go Lauryn,” written on them. Immediately, dozens of little hands shot in the air to ask Williams questions.
“Were you proud to go to the Olympics?” one child asked.
Very proud, she answered.
“How do you run that fast?” another questioned.
“I practice,” Williams said. “Do your teachers ever tell you that practice makes perfect?”
Yes, they all answered in unison, then another question.
“How old are you?”
“I'm 30,” Williams answered, which brought on an outburst of laughter.
There aren't many questions anyone can ask Williams that she hasn't already heard, although the Olympic track and now bobsled medalist admits that with kids, you just never know.
One that caught her a little off-guard during Friday's homecoming celebration at her old school wasn't so much a question as a statement from a middle school boy.
“He raised his hand and said, ‘I don't know if anyone told you how proud we are and what an impact you had on us,” she said. “He kind of gave me a little speech and he sounded like a little adult. It was really cool to hear that.”
Williams made history a little more than three weeks ago at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, when she won silver in the bobsled — missing gold by a split-second — and became the first American woman to medal in both the Summer and Winter Games.
On Friday, she was back in the small town north of Pittsburgh she said she'll always call home, where she was honored in a school assembly.
Former school administrators and coaches recounted not only her rise as a PIAA track star but also her tenacity as an eighth-grader whose first question of the brand new superintendent was about when their first dance would take place.
State senators and representatives issued official citations and honors. Students saw a video that included Williams' legendary performance in the 2001 PIAA 4X100m relay, in which she ran from last place to first as the anchor and the Lady Rams won gold.
Afterward, Williams did Q&A sessions with the different age groups, where she encouraged students to ask her anything.
Questions ranged from is bobsled scary to what goes through your mind before a race to how tall are you (5-foot-3 and a quarter was her answer, emphasis on the quarter). Some wanted to know how long she practiced, others wondered if anyone ever tried putting her down and what it was like to be in a different country.
With all of them, Williams emphasized the importance of education, practice and hard work.
She even admitted when one of the youngest children asked if she wanted to go back to the Winter Olympics that she wasn't ruling it out, although it was a long way off. For now, she plans to use her MBA and become a certified financial planner to help other Olympic athletes manage their money.
Even the littlest students knew a lot about her accomplishments.
Teacher Aimee Siok, who was Williams' assistant track coach for two years, said the whole kindergarten gathered in her classroom to watch the race live. Afterward, they all drew pictures and wrote messages in a journal that Siok made into a scrapbook for Williams. Many of the young students gifted Williams with drawings they'd made to celebrate her arrival.
“I told them this is a part of history,” Siok said. “When you meet her, this might never, ever happen again. You're going to meet an Olympian that came to our school. We have talked about it a lot.”
Williams, who is still in the whirlwind of post-Olympic tour and media stops, said she knew her old school would pull out all the stops, but she still was amazed by the support.
“I knew there was going to be something big, but I had no idea how big or how good it would make me feel to know so many people were counting on me,” said Williams, who will take part in Saturday's St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Pittsburgh. “Just to know I made such an impact on my town and my community is really cool.”
Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Outbound 376 reopened after man on exit sign caused closure
- Harrison shines again as Pirates clip Reds, 2-1
- Secret judicial ruling blocks release of sexually explicit emails
- Steelers claim former Cowboys cornerback Webb
- Veteran Keisel settles into role with Steelers
- High school roundup: Greensburg Salem shocks Gateway in opener
- Pitt’s obscure opener still matters
- Franklin Regional security guard fighting to get job back
- Consumer spending dips 0.1% in July as auto sales pull back
- Pirates notebook: Lambo recalled to bolster bench
- Artists’ bike racks grace Cultural District