They both saw it when Jeremy Williams was in middle school. Ken Baginski was coaching middle school cross country and, a couple times a year, his team was invited to practice with Coach Bill Spruytte’s high schoolers.
He had it.
It was drive; it was determination; it was an unparalleled focus on being the best.
It would would eventually earn Jeremy a scholarship to Harvard University and the reputation as one of the most prolific student-athletes in the history of Lapeer.
Jeremy, even at a young age, was up front about his desire to be up front. He was preparing for his future even though, at the time, Jeremy remembers being only “fast” and not “insanely fast.”
“(Back then) I could see how his mentality going into races was changing a little bit,” Baginski said. “When he would be interested in the course layout, or who his main competition would be, that was him preparing to be in the front of the race.”
“It was at this time I began sharing personal experiences of my race tactics and personal results because I could see he was really taking it all in.”
Coach Spruytte said he, too, knew Jeremy would become a special runner — all the signs were there.
“As a freshman, Jeremy led discussions about work ethic, competition, and training around the bonfire at our cross country camp,” he recalled. “And then he really came into his own his sophomore year.”
From that point, Jeremy began collecting medals and, to this day, hasn’t stopped.
“When he was really little, his dad told me ‘there’s something special about this one,’” Mary Williams, Jeremy’s mother, recalled. “He doesn’t walk around telling people he’s great, you just sort of know.”
Dad was right. Jeremy has been every bit as prolific in the classroom as on the course, racing his twin brother, Michael, a high achiever in his own right, straight to the top of his class.
Jeremy is a member of the National Honor Society who also participates in DECA, Quiz Bowl, Peer Resistance and will have completed an astounding 17 Advanced Placement courses. Because of this, his grade point average is not far off his 40-yard dash time at a completely absurd 4.45 — not a misprint.
Always His Personal Best
In the classroom or on the track, Jeremy was always seeking to better himself and rarely took any time to savor the personal bests. From his first race until his last, he was the top cross country runner in Lapeer.
His list of accomplishments in the classroom, the course and the track would cover eight lanes (watch the above video for the full list).
Coach Spruytte, who coached Jeremy all four years of high school, said he is most impressed by how he always sets goals.
“These types of achievements require an action plan and a lot of hard work,” he said. “Jeremy could probably tell you his workout plan for the spring season on the first day of track practice. He takes the time to do strategic, targeted planning that aligns with his goal thresholds. That type of work-setting goals and doing backwards planning to work towards those goals is something that students can learn if they get to know more of Jeremy’s story.”
Coach Baginski beams with pride when he talks about Jeremy, even bragging about how much faster Jeremy is than he ever thought of being at his age.
“His work ethic is second to none, and I think it was definitely contagious the last four years,” Baginski said. “I encourage anyone that wants to get the most out of their running potential to make sure they chat with Jeremy before he leaves for Harvard.”
Throughout most of his high school career, Jeremy didn’t really have a first choice college; but, when this particular call came in, he didn’t waste any time.
“(Harvard’s coach) asked me if I was committed to Harvard one hundred percent,” Jeremy said. “I said ‘yes,’ right away. I didn’t pause.”
At that point, it was time for a personal best for mom.
“It was the biggest hug we’d ever had,” she said.
For Jeremy, the road to Harvard University was not always smooth sailing. Like so many students across the country, he faced significant adversity during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Along the way he lost significant instructional time, an entire track season and an opportunity to compete for a state championship in 2020.
But, like he has done in every aspect of his life, he took it all in stride. He said the secret to persevering through difficult times is to simply do the little things right.
“Get your sleep; try to enjoy school,” he said. “Don’t take on a victim mentality. Always strive to get to the top.”
For him, it’s simple.
“It’s about the next race.”