Joel Williams is in his sixth year as an assistant track and field coach with the UNC Asheville men's and women's programs. He has been in charge of coaching the sprints (up to 800m) and hurdle events, throws and high jump since his hiring in the fall of 2007.
His latest notable runner is Milan Ristic, a native of Belgrade, Serbia, who capped his sophomore year and the 2012 track season by becoming the program's first hurdler to qualify for the NCAA Regionals while breaking his own school record with a time of 13.88 (42 inch hurdles). Ristic has improved from a time of 14.49 in high school over 39 inch hurdles to his 13.88 over the collegiate/international hurdles. Ristic won both the 60m hurdles at the Big South indoor championships and the 110m hurdles at the outdoor championships during the 2011-2012 school year. Ristic also set school records for 200m indoors and outdoors with times of 21.68 and 21.62, respectively.
Also, during 2011-2012 school year, Williams coach to Sarah Gentry winning the 800m conference championships at both the indoor and outdoor Big South championships. Gentry set a school record indoors with a time of 2:11.40 and ran 2:10.87 outdoors. She also moved to number 2 all time for the school outdoors in the 400m with a time of 57.65.
Kurt Hibert moved to number 2 all time for UNC Asheville indoors with his 15.50m weight throw. Outdoors he set a school record in the hammer throw with a toss of 54.47m.
Meredith Foster set a school record in the high jump with a leap of 1.65m/5'5" that she accomplished both indoors and outdoors.
The 2010-2011 season was highlighted by the performances of junior Simon Haake, Ristic and sophomore Sarah Gentry.
Haake broke his own school record in the javelin with a throw of 68.15 meters to qualify for the NCAA East preliminary round for the second consecutive year. He also posted the second-best hammer throw and the third-best shot put marks in program history after having recorded Asheville's top-three marks in both events indoors.
Williams also elicited impressive results from Ristic in his freshman year. He set school records in the 110m hurdles (14.32) as well as the 100m and 200m. The hurdles time qualified him for the European Athletics Under-23 Championships held in July 2011. Ristic also established school indoor records in the 55m and 200m and ran the second-fastest 60m hurdle time in Asheville history.
One other male athlete, discus thrower Kurt Hibert, posted a top-five school mark.
Gentry led the women's side in her first year at 800m by setting a school record while finishing second in the Big South Conference Indoor Championships. Outdoors, Gentry moved into second place in program history with a time of 2:12.14 and surpassed her own second-best school time in the 400m.
Two other top-five program marks were set under Williams by Meredith Foster in the high jump and Ashlei Clodfelter in the javelin throw.
The 2009-10 season featured Haake and Clodfelter in the javelin.
Haake established a school record with a throw of 64.57m at the conference championships, which qualified him for the NCAA East prelims. Clodfelter, meanwhile, moved into second place on the school's all-time list with a throw of 38.62m.
The men's side saw two school records set indoors and two outdoors, while a new school standard record also was established on the women's side.
Former Bulldog baseball player Keith Scruggs, with Williams playing a key role in the conversion, brought notice to the track and field program in 2008-09 when he recorded the second-best hammer throw in school history.
Meanwhile, Haake and Williams continued to write an intriguing story in the javelin. The sophomore, who walked on the Bulldog team as a freshman despite never having competed in track and field nor any sport at East Chapel Hill High School, improved his personal best from the previous season by almost 11 meters. He also recorded the second-best throw in school history (55.56 meters) to finish seventh at the conference championships.
Williams made an immediate impression in his first season at Asheville (2007-08) as all of his throwers made the school's all-time top 10 list.
Erik Nabi led the way as he extended his personal best in the javelin by 6.03m in one year, earning all-conference honors with a throw of 55.48m, second in school history. Daniel Corriher improved by more than a meter in the shot put and indoor weight while entering the school top five in the shot and hammer throw. Haake began his Bulldog career when he moved into the school top 10 with a throw of 44.66m while making the finals of the conference championships.
Prior to his arrival at UNC Asheville, Williams coached at Watauga High School in Boone from 1994-2005. He was in charge of the indoor track and field program while serving as assistant for the outdoor team.
Ten of his indoor athletes won 4-A state championships, and he guided the 1997 girls' team to the program's first state title. Williams also oversaw the development of 12 state champions outdoors. Watauga captured three straight state girls' outdoors titles (1995-97), while the boys' outdoors squad tied for third in 1997 and was runner-up in 2000.
The Pioneers were dominant at the conference level, with the boys and girls teams each winning eight straight league championships during his 12 seasons at the school. He also was the strength coach for several school record-setting throwers.
Four Watauga athletes whose careers Williams influenced achieved noteworthy success beyond their Pioneer days.
Brenda Taylor won the 400m hurdles in the NCAA Championships while attending Harvard and finished seventh in that event for the U.S. in the 2004 Olympics at Athens, Greece. Her second-place time of 53.36 at the U.S. Olympic Trials was fifth-best in the world that year. She also earned a bronze medal in the 2003 World Indoor Championships as a member of the U.S. 4x400 relay team.
While at Watauga, Taylor won nine individual and relay state titles. Williams helped design her weight program for the 2004 Olympics and worked with her at Harvard and post-collegiately.
Lindsay Taylor, Brenda's twin sister, won numerous Ivy League championships in the hurdles and high jump while at Brown, qualified for two NCAA Championships in the heptathlon and finished third in the pole vault at the 2003 USATF National Indoor Championships. Williams continued to work with her during that period.
Her high school years included a high jump of 5-11.5. She was second in that event in the USATF Junior National Championships, fourth in the Pan Am Junior Championships in Cuba and third nationally in 1997 as voted by Track and Field News.
Abraham Morlu, a sprinter from Liberia, was coached by Williams from his freshman year at Watauga to a spot on his country's 400m relay team for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, while a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill. Morlu also made the Liberian relay team for the 2001 and 2003 World Championships.
Daniel Duckworth won a Southern Conference championship in the weight throw while competing at nearby Appalachian State and in August 2009 was invited to a tryout for one of the two United States two-man bobsled teams.
Williams' time at Watauga also featured Donna Bealer, who ran a 2:16.78 in the 800 meters as a junior in 1998 to win a state championship and later teamed with the Taylors and Garrie Storie to capture state indoor and outdoor titles in the 4x400 relay (best of 3:53.01 in 1997); and Patrick Murphy and Nathan Giles, who in 2000 helped set a then state record of 7:49.00 in the 4x800 relay.
Williams is a 2004 graduate of Appalachian State with a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion with minors in Exercise Science and Sociology. He is a USATF level II certified coach in both Sprints/Hurdles/Relays and the Throws. He also holds a USAW (U.S. Weightlifting Federation) Club Coach Certification for teaching and coaching Olympic lifts.