It was something of a chance encounter when Cody Williams first met Concordia University track and field and cross country head coach Matt Beisel. The location was Chase County High School, roughly 275 miles west of Seward and just off the boarder of Colorado. Beisel had ventured to Imperial, Nebraska, for recruiting purposes, but it had not been to meet up with Williams.
Upon seeing him for the first time, it would have been difficult for Beisel to ignore Williams, who has always had the look of athlete. Tall, slender and a budding athlete already, Williams was going to be a prized recruit for any track and field program that could land his services.
“I didn’t know anything about him,” Beisel said of that first meeting. “It was my first year coaching here and I was still trying to wrap my brain around who’s who in Nebraska. I didn’t know then that he was the high jumper and athlete that he was. I went out there to sign a friend of his and as I was leaving the school, I bumped into Cody. He just happened to be walking in the front door to go play basketball. Here was this big tall guy. I said hi to him. He and the friend he was with asked what I was here for and I told them. I remember he had a really strong handshake. Later on he texted me and said he was really interested in our school.”
By that point, Williams had made the mental leap in terms of what he wanted to do next. It took some time before he realized college athletics were right for him. As someone with an interest in motorsports and one who is unafraid of getting his hands dirty, Williams aspired to be a diesel mechanic.
Eventually, Williams realized he would rather spend the next several years as a student-athlete leaping hurdles and high jumping as opposed to rebuilding large engines. Says Williams, “I wasn’t interested in sports in college. I was going to be a diesel mechanic. Then I saw friends who were competing in college and it got me fired up to keep doing track. I took a visit to Concordia in the fall when the leaves were changing and I loved everything. It was a really pretty time. I loved the coaches and decided Concordia was where I was going to go.”
Williams says he also received recruiting interest from Doane and the University of Nebraska-Kearney. It makes sense that interest started streaming in as Williams got better and better. He credits high school coach Carl Zuege with helping grow his passion as a competitor. An injured shoulder as a sophomore was a minor blip. Williams broke the school long jump record as a junior. Then as a senior, he eclipsed his own long jump standard and rewrote the Chase County high jump record.
Beisel was learning what a find he had come across. Said Beisel, “I went out to see him in Mitchell, Nebraska, because I wanted to see this guy in action. He went to state in the high jump, the triple jump, the hurdles and the long jump. He jumped PR’s in most of those. I got to watch him again at state so we knew we had a good one right off the bat.”
Williams has more than met expectations. He again flashed his all-around athletic ability at the recent GPAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships by racking up 34 team points, a tally that led to him being named the GPAC Outstanding Athlete of the Meet and the GPAC Athlete of the Year. He captured GPAC titles in the 110 meter hurdles and long jump and turned in place finishes of second in the high jump and third in the triple jump.
Again, he’s only a sophomore – with four individual GPAC titles and three All-America awards to his credit. There certainly was a period of adjustment to the rigors of college training, but it wasn’t something Williams couldn’t handle.
“Coming in to Concordia I was pretty confident,” Williams said. “I was really excited about going into my freshman year and then by October I was already wiped out. The toughest thing was the mental part of it. I’m someone who gets injured easily and so I was always having my ankles and shins taped up. Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated until you see the work pay off with the progress you make.”
The progress began back in grade school. Once Williams began high school, his mother (quite athletic herself) told him he either had to be involved in sports or find a job. Williams chose sports of course. The small town boy had big time game. He even dunked a basketball as early as his sophomore year. All the while, Coach Zuege continued to push him.
The work over time combined with his God given abilities have put Williams on a course to be one of the all-time greats for a storied track and field program at Concordia. He also realizes he’s not Superman. Williams decided along with the coaching staff not to compete in the decathlon this outdoor season. It made him fresher and it showed over the past couple of months. Williams keeps improving across the board. Next indoor season he’ll take another run at a national title in the heptathlon.
“It’s nice to look back at the grind and seeing the progression I’ve made as an athlete,” Williams said. “I also want to keep being a better leader and teammate. My goal is for us to be the best team in the GPAC like the girls this year. I want to get our men’s team to that point. I want the conference title as much as anyone else does. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Whatever it takes means that some school records are bound to fall as Williams continues to reach his full potential. A graphic design major, Williams could still become a diesel mechanic if he so desires. For now, life as a student-athlete is enough of a commitment. Anything else would take energy and focus away from his determination to reach even greater heights.