By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
Over the past decade, the Naugatuck Greyhounds have seen several athletes step up and leave their mark on the sports program. Athletes like Jason Bradley, the 2014-15 NVL Senior Athlete of the Year with 107 career passing touchdowns, and Gillian Fortier, a four-time All-NVL and All-State player with 20 career home runs, along with a host of others, will be remembered as some of the finest athletes to have worn the Garnet and Grey.
One athlete who stands out among the rest and left a legacy of his own that won’t soon be forgotten is track and field star Amanze Williams, Naugatuck’s athlete of the decade. Williams was, in one word, sensational.
“Amanze was in a league of his own,” Naugatuck track coach Ralph Roper said. “They don’t come along like that very often. He went to the nationals two or three times and the New England championship just about every year.”
Williams was a two-time All-New England, three-time All-State, and four-time All-NVL champion among champions. He filled a trophy case on his own with six state gold medals, eight NVL gold medals, and the 2011 New England outdoor long jump and triple jump championships.
During 2010-11, Williams was a force to reckoned with during the indoor and the outdoor seasons. He was the NVL Most Outstanding Jumper in back-to-back outdoor seasons for the NVL champion Greyhounds.
“He was a fearless competitor,” Roper added, “but he was a very soft-spoken young man and very humble. Nothing ever seemed to rattle him. No matter how big the spotlight, he just went about doing his thing and never letting the moment get too much for him.”
His rise to prominence began during the 2010 indoor season, when he won the NVL long jump championship and finished among the top eight in the high and long jump at the Class L meet.
That was a springboard into the outdoor season, when he was the NVL’s long jump and triple jump champion, setting a league record in the triple jump with a distance of 47 feet, 8 inches. He went on to be the Class L triple jump champion, later finishing fifth in New England in the long jump and sixth in the triple jump.
Williams ended his high school career in fashion, setting the NVL indoor long jump record (22 feet, 1/4 inch) while earning Class L and NVL gold in the long and high jumps.
During the outdoor season, Amanze won his second straight NVL Most Outstanding Jumper award, capturing gold in the long jump, triple jump and high jump. Then he became the Class L long and triple jump champion, the State Open long jump champion, and the New England long and triple jump champion.
Williams went on to enjoy a stellar career at UConn, where he was the American Athletic Conference runner-up in the triple jump as a junior, setting a career-best with a leap of 15.25 meters.