clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Coach's words of appreciation make gay athlete cry at his last meet

New, 1 comment

LGBT Sports Roundup: Pole vaulter Tanner Williams of Oklahoma makes his last jump, plus a roundup around the nation.

Tanner Williams
Tanner Williams
Photo by Brendan Maloney

LAWRENCE, Kansas — When Oklahoma senior Tanner Williams missed his third and final pole vault attempt at 16 feet, 10 inches, he sat on the thick, foam mat unsure what to do next. So he just sat there for a bit.

On May 27 in Lawrence, Kansas, at the NCAA West Preliminary, Williams competed in a Crimson and Cream uniform for the last time.

"You spend all this time working, like the past 10 years for me, to get to the point where I can actually compete at the national level ... it just hit me all at once, ‘Wow, it's actually over. I'm done. That was my last jump ever,' " said Williams, who announced publicly he's gay in 2015.

The 6-foot-2, 171-pound Williams previously reached the West Preliminary in 2014. This year, he entered the meet seeded 30th, and by clearing 16-4, he finished tied for 32nd. The finality of it proved emotional.

He felt disgust at not vaulting better — his personal record is 17-1. Then Oklahoma pole vault coach John Dagata approached him and said, "Tanner we really appreciate everything you've done for us. We appreciate everything you've done for the team. You had a great year. I'm very proud of you." Williams was named co-captain of the track and field team for this season.

Hearing that sentiment made Williams cry, and his tears continued as he approached his mom, Jana Ellis, and his grandma, Lynda Hill. They'd driven from Oklahoma to watch him compete.

"My mom has been there at every one of my competitions since I was in middle school," Williams said. "She cried more than I did when we were done."

Williams estimates it took more than an hour for their tears to subside.

Colorado junior hurdler Jaron Thomas, who announced publicly he's gay in May, also competed at the meet May 27 and 28. Thomas battled through a hip injury to finish 18th in the 110-meter hurdles (13.99 seconds) and 25th in the 400-meter hurdles (52.45 seconds). He entered the meet seeded 30th in 110s and 32nd in the 400s.

"My passion for my sport is going to keep driving me to do my best," said Thomas, who would have advanced to nationals in the 110 hurdles with a time eight-hundredths faster. "If I can do what I did this weekend in a healthy state, then I'll be fine and ready to go with whoever is on the track."

Williams left the meet that Friday night because of an obligation at home Saturday, so he rode to Norman, Oklahoma, with his mom and grandma. He kept his jersey on.

That night at home, he finally took the jersey off.

He laid it on the bed to look at it, just once more on his final day as a college athlete.

Names in bold are people that have announced publicly they identify as LGBT.

Division I

Lauren Miranda (senior, Duke women's rowing) helped the Blue Devils' No. 2 Varsity 8 boat win the C Final at the NCAA Championships on May 29. By winning the C Final, her boat finished 13th, and its time was 6 minutes, 34.803 seconds. "Today was a good day for Duke," Blue Devils head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno said in a press release. "I'm really proud of our seniors and how the V4 and 2V8 raced." Duke finished 17th as a team in the 22-team field.

Jazmine Sosa (senior, UCLA softball) and Kirk Walker (assistant coach, UCLA softball) reached the Women's College World Series by beating fifth-seeded Oregon 2-1 in two straight games in the Super Regional on May 29. The Bruins (40-16-1 overall) lost their first two games at the WCWS to Auburn, 10-3, on June 2 and Florida State, 8-4, on Saturday. This was UCLA's second straight WCWS trip and 26th overall.

Nich Lee Parker (head coach, Columbia men's lightweight rowing) guided his team to the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship on Sunday. The Lions captured the team title by winning the Varsity 8 grand final and finishing second in the Varsity 4 grand final. This is Columbia's first national title in Varsity 8 since 1929, according to the school. The Varsity 8 clocked a time of 5:52.060 to beat runner-up Yale by 2.4 seconds. Georgetown won the Varsity 4, and Columbia finished 2.46 seconds behind in 6:44.410. The IRA held the National Championship on Lake Mercer near West Windsor, New Jersey.

Simon Thibodeau (head coach, UC Santa Barbara women's tennis) coached his doubles team of Palina Dubavets and Stefani Stojic to a NCAA tournament round-of-32 victory, which they won 6-1, 6-2 on May 26 against a team from DePaul. On May 27, Dubavets and Stojic lost in the second round to a North Carolina team 6-4, 4-6, 10-7, and the Gauchos pair finish the season 15-5. "I'm so proud," Thibodeau said in a press release. "They are disappointed as they were leading most of the match, but credit to the UNC team, they played well in the end and made us earn every point."

Division II

Carly Muscaro (junior, Merrimack women's track and field) won the NCAA Division II Championship in the 400 meters (51.32 seconds) and took second in the 200 meters (23.22 seconds) on May 28 in Brandenton, Florida. Her 400 time at the NCAA meet is the 12th fastest by an American woman in 2016, as of June 1. This comes after Muscaro won the indoor 400 meters earlier this year and was runner-up in the outdoor 400 in 2015. Muscaro aannounced publicly she is gay in an article published in The Eagle-Tribune on Sunday. Link: 

Erik Hall can be reached via email at hallerik7@gmail.com or on Twitter @HallErik or on Facebook. If you are an out LGBT athlete or coach and want your accomplishments recognized, email Erik.