"Determined. Humble. Competitive," says Center Hill High School swimming coach Josh Barnett in describing senior Taylor Williams.
At the age of 17, Williams is not only one of the best swimmers to ever come out of DeSoto County, but is also one of the best to ever come out of the state of Mississippi.
At four years old, Williams took on swimming lessons, just as something that his parents wanted to put him in. After a quick start to swimming, he quickly decided that he wanted to take on swimming competitively and joined a team.
Even though he knew early on that he wanted to swim, it wasn't until about 12 years old that Williams realized that he was even great at it.
"It was just all about making a team, but it wasn't until my times started dropping pretty fast that I kind of felt like I stood a chance,” Williams said.
Even with multiple state records, state titles, and plenty of news coverage, Williams still remains just an every day high school kid, dealing with high school things.
"It is really stressful, you know, being a high school senior, trying to find what college is good for me and what coaches want me and just trying to be the best," said Williams, “But I give a lot of credit to the Memphis area because we have a lot of fast swimmers around here. Just trying to be on top of that is really stressful."
In fact, Williams encourages swimmers all around the county to keep pushing, even with the lack of meets held in the county.
"Join competitive teams, and just because there are not meets in DeSoto County does not mean you cannot swim fast at meets around the state. If you try your best and work hard and you can do anything really," say Williams.
But more than just incredible ability in the pool, Williams also excels in the classroom and as a teammate.
"Taylor comes in every day and does exactly what he is supposed to, especially in the classroom,” Barnett said. “He has a great GPA and he makes my job a whole lot easier as a coach. He has good leadership abilities and sets a great example for the younger ones to follow behind."
Williams’ determination, according to his coach, is what will continue to make him one of the best swimmers in the country.
When asked about what drives his determination, Williams said that it is his desire to be a Division I athlete and to get to college.
"I think about that every time before I get in the water,” said Williams. “It is the thought of college that really gets me through it."
After dropping his time in all of his races at Junior Nationals at Stanford University, it is no doubt that Williams will not only be able to go to school, but to do it as a D-1 athlete.
Williams is set to visit Arizona State Sun Devils in the weeks to come, and will later decide between the Sun Devils or the Bearcats of Cincinnati. It is certain that either of those schools will be very fortunate to have one of DeSoto County’s and Center Hill's best.
(Editor’s note: Williams has competed this year in the 50 freestyle, 100 back stroke, 200 IM, 100 Breaststroke, and 100 Butterfly, and is part of the Mustangs’ 200 freestyle relay. He has won state titles in the 100 Breaststroke and the 200 IM. Williams holds the state record for both events.)
Alex Gomez is a DeSoto County sportswriter who provides articles for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.