All season long, Cal women’s gymnast Toni-Ann Williams has had one main mindset: performing well to help her team. This weekend, however, will be completely different, as she’ll have to go at it alone when she travels to Texas to compete in the NCAA championships. For the first time all year long, she’ll have the opportunity to see how she stacks up against the best gymnasts in the nation.
“Here’s an opportunity with a clean slate to go out on the biggest stage in college gymnastics and show what she’s got,” said head coach Justin Howell.
Williams punched her ticket to Texas on April 4, when the Bears hosted the NCAA regionals for only the third time in school history. She ended the night with an overall score of 39.275, which gave her a third-place finish behind Utah’s Georgia Dabritz and Corrie Lothrop.
Although only the top two qualified, Williams was fortunate that she was still able to gain an invite to Texas because these gymnasts had already qualified through their teams. And though she qualified, Williams’ night was one that didn’t quite live up to expectations. She made several rare mistakes throughout the meet, especially when it came to her performance on the balance beam — she finished with a low beam score of 9.650, which was largely due to several balance checks she made throughout the routine. It could very well be the balance beam this weekend that could either make or break her on the national stage.
Still, she had one impressive highlight during the NCAA regionals, which occurred on Cal’s second event, the vault exercise. Williams put on one of the best vault performances of her career with a score of 9.950, and thus she became the first Cal gymnast since 1991 to win a regional vault title. Unfortunately, her performances on the other three events didn’t garner the same excitement. Williams definitely won’t have any room to make the same mistakes in Texas, especially when going up against such high-caliber competition.
This will undoubtedly be Williams’ toughest competition of the year, which will put even more pressure on her to perform well. Luckily for her, she has plenty of strengths that she brings to the table, with her most dangerous being her potential.
An example of this potential came February 13, when she surprised everyone by breaking the school’s all-around individual record with a score of 39.700. This included a perfect 10 on the vault exercise, which, at the time, was only the second perfect score ever recorded in school history. It is this potential and unpredictability that will put fear into the eyes of those who compete against her this weekend.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity she has going to Texas, and if she does what she’s capable of, then she’ll have a fantastic result,” Howell said.
The season Williams has had has been one full of personal accomplishments in which she has not only broken several school records but also set a new bar for Cal women’s gymnastics. She is looking to set the bar even higher this weekend when she competes in the NCAA championships.
“I’m super excited, overwhelmed and just humbled,” Williams said.
Alex Quintana covers gymnastics. Contact him at [email protected]