Cal women’s gymnast Toni-Ann Williams has been tested all year long, but nothing could have prepared her for Friday’s NCAA Championships in Fort Worth, Texas. Williams knew heading into this meet that she needed to perform at her best if she wanted to make a statement on the national stage but unfortunately was unable to do so.
Her final all-around score of 39.225 was good enough for 20th place. Still, she was able to make program history despite leaving plenty on the table. Her 20th place standing marked the best all-around finish for any Cal gymnast at the NCAA Championships.
“We were very proud of Toni-Ann. She came in as a freshman — first time at the national championships — and hit four-for-four routines with no major mistakes,” said head coach Justin Howell. “She really represented the university in a very positive light.”
Williams started the NCAA Championships on the floor exercise, which has been one of her stronger events of the season. She started the meet full of energy and confidence, which led to an overall floor score of 9.850. This would rank as the 36th best floor performance of the day. But she failed to carry the same energy into her next few events.
She moved onto the vault exercise, which has also been one of her better events of the season, for her second event of the meet. Williams finished on vault with a score of 9.825, which could have been much better if it hadn’t been for an unbalanced landing. In the end, her vault routine ranked as the 44th best of the meet, her second-best event finish of the day.
The last two events for Williams saw her perform on the uneven bars and balance beam. She finished on the bars with a final overall score of 9.800, which ranked as the 63rd best bars routine of the meet. Unfortunately, Williams registered a 9.750 on the balance beam, her worst event score of the meet.
Overall, Williams didn’t perform up to her expectations at the NCAA Championships, but she gained valuable experience that might prove to be priceless in the future.
“She’s taken many things away from the NCAA Championships that she’s going to take back to the team,” Howell said. “This will all prove to be very valuable as we start to prepare for next year.”
It would be unfair to talk about Williams’ performance at the NCAA Championships without talking about the record-breaking season that got her there in the first place. In fact, she’s had what could be the best individual season in Cal women’s gymnastics history, which is absolutely sensational when considering the fact that she’s only a freshman.
Williams has been honored this season on both the conference and national levels, raising the bar for Cal women’s gymnastics. Some of these honors have included Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and NACGC/W Region I Gymnast of the Year, as well as being named a member of the All Pac-12 first team.
Williams will look to take the program to even greater heights next year, which for her means taking the team to the NCAA Championships.
“Toni has a lot of physical gifts, and I think they’ll only continue to develop into next season,” Howell said. “But I really think she’s going to see the biggest growth mentally next year.”
Alex Quintana covers gymnastics. Contact him at [email protected]