Thomas Sumter's Nina Williamson is an individual with many talents.
The senior is a two-sport athlete, archery team captain and eighth in her class with aspirations of becoming an ER nurse or environmental lawyer. Nina is also the youngest of three children, works at her parents' restaurant and lives on a farm.
However, the most important fact might just be that Nina is alive after being involved in a drive-by shooting in 2019.
"I was actually conscious the whole time," Nina said of the experience. "I was with my mom, and we had just left (Thomas Sumter). We had gone home and fed all the animals and everything, and we were going to my family's restaurant to have family dinner. We turned onto the road to get to the bar, and my mom thought her tire popped. So she stopped the car, and then three more shots came, and so she drove off and shoved me in the floorboard. I heard two more. And then I didn't hear anything else because my ears were ringing.
"And I came back up and I looked at my mom, and she was freaking out. I had blood everywhere. I was wearing my dad's 60th anniversary San Francisco Giants hoodie, my favorite pair of jeans and my favorite pair of Vans, and they cut all of it off of me when we got into the parking lot, and I cried."
Nina's mom, Joni, wasn't injured during the crossfire. For her, staying composed was the hardest part of the whole ordeal.
"When she sat back up, she asked, 'What's wrong?' with all this blood on her face," Joni said. "I don't think she realized she was shot until she saw my face. She was asking me if I was OK because she saw blood on me, but I was fine. Once I saw her face, I hit the gas and got to our restaurant because it was the closest safe place that I knew. The biggest thing was keeping her calm because I didn't want her to lose more blood due to her heart rate increasing."
Nina was struck on her head and behind her ear but didn't really feel the impact. Treating the wound was something that required surgery that could've made the situation more tragic. She was able to beat unfavorable odds going through with the procedure.
"Before the police and the ambulance got there, I had gone through seven big rags of blood," Nina explained. "When the ambulance finally got there, they asked if I could stand up. I told them I was totally fine and then almost fell on my face.
"At the hospital, they tried to take out the bullet fragments while I was still awake. They gave me two doses of morphine in my face, and they were like, 'Can you feel this?' I was like, 'yeah.' They asked if I was sure, and I was like, 'It's a cold metal device. Yeah, I can feel it.' So they told my family that if I went under that there would be like a 40% chance that I'd wake up. There was a 60% chance of being in a coma, which was not a fun thing to deal with. My parents have always been underdogs, so they kind of like took the chances and said to do the procedure, and I went under at 6:30 and I woke up at 9:45 the same day."
Luckily, the recovery process wasn't overly intense. She was able to fully function and not miss any time during archery season.
"I was just in the hospital until the next day. They checked me for concussions like seven times, and they gave me like a little bag of medicine. I had to deal with my head spinning for a week or two after that," Nina said. "This happened in December, around the time archery season was starting up. I was able to compete in our first tournament, which was in January, so everything was cool.
"I had a bunch of hair missing here," she added, pointing to the spot on her head. "So I wore headbands for three months and then cut bangs, which wasn't the best decision."
Nina has shared the story with many people and multiple times. Whether it's with new students at TSA or those at the airport when she sets off metal detectors, it's a moment for Nina that she and her family try to make light of and not dwell on too much. She has a selfless viewpoint on the circumstance as a whole.
"People always say, 'Oh, you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time,'" Nina said. "I never think that because, if it wouldn't have been me, it would have been a school bus with a bunch of little kids. As the ambulance was taking me out of the parking lot of the restaurant, a school bus of like third-graders was coming through the neighborhood at the same time. So I'm glad it was me and not one of them."
That selfless nature has always been a part of who Nina is, according to Joni.
"Growing up, she's always been very willing to help anyone out," Joni said. "Anything we do as a family, she wants to join in and do it even when she can't, especially when she was little."
GETTING INTO SPORTS
Nina's selflessness also translates into who she is as an athlete. It's the main reason she decided to pick up bowling this season.
"Coach Mac [McLeod] and my friend Miles, they begged me to join the team after two girls quit," Nina said. "That's how it started. I found a lot of people who I connected with, and I stuck with it. It was cool."
Nina has been a participant in archery since the sixth grade and, after a few years, became really good at the sport. She uses the sport as an outlet for dealing with any frustrations.
"It was just something fun that we wanted to do together before he graduated," Nina said of competing with her brother, Jacob. "I thought it was cool because Merida, the Disney princess, does it, so I thought it was cool. I was getting better. And my brother and I did it until he graduated after my seventh-grade year. I got really good last year when I kept maxing my score.
"Archery keeps me sane, if I'm being honest. Sometimes I just let out my frustrations by doing it, which is a lot better than taking it out on somebody because I can get expelled for that."
Nina sees herself taking part in archery in college, as well. She's become a greater competitor during her time in the sport and has built an extra level of mental toughness. Nina even competed through a torn rotator cuff injury last season at the state meet. She's hoping to contribute to a state-title season for the Generals this season.
"I definitely like to outdo myself," Nina said. After I get a new max, I want to try to get above that. And then I like to try to outshoot other people that are around me or outdo those who are near me.
"We've been pretty good," she continued. "In 2017, we got runners up, and then in 2018, we won state. And then in 2019, we won state. And then in 2020, our program was shut down (due to COVID). In 2021, we got runners up, and then last year, we got runners up again. So we're trying to get first place again this year."
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