Jamaica's gymnast Toni-Ann Williams’ vaults meteorically through Freshman year
Jamaica's gymnast Toni-Ann Williams has been having the most impressive year as a freshman gymnast representing the University of California-Berkeley in the United States.
On Saturday, the 19-year-old added another historic achievement to her growing list of accomplishments, after booking her place at the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Women's Gymnastics Championships, set for April 17-19 at Fort Worth, Texas.
Williams, who was born in America of Jamaican parents, has won over 30 titles in her freshman year, broken five records, won 12 Freshman of the Year awards and was Cal-Berkeley's Athlete of the Week six times. She is also the current western (US) and Jamaican Gymnast of the Year.
Despite her school's failure to qualify for the national tournament, Williams was able to secure her place at the NCAA championships by virtue of finishing the third best all-rounder with a score of 39.275, and placing first in the vault.
The top-two all-around competitors not on an advancing team are guaranteed spots at the national championships as well as the champions of each event.
The young gymnast, who will compete for the all-around title on Friday, April 17 and will have a chance to contend for an individual NCAA title and All-America status on Sunday, April 19, told The Gleaner it's a great opportunity to represent her school and country.
"It's outstanding and humbling, it's an opportunity to represent Jamaica and Cal and I am really excited at what is to come," she said. "I can do well as long as I am 100 per cent and I'm training and I continue doing what I have been doing all season. I have competed with some of these girls before and it should be great competition.
"I don't know (if I'll win), but it will be good to see how well I do. But I feel good about my chances," she said.
Williams admitted that her rapid rise to prominence has really surprised her, but not her mom, Marlene, who pointed out that Williams' humble nature never allows her to get carried away.
"I always knew she could do it, but Toni is a humble kid and she doesn't take anything for granted, so maybe she knew she was good, but I don't know if she had any idea that she would have excelled as she has.
"'She's not a show-off, she's very humble and that's what makes her so special," her mom commented.
Her mother credits her coaches and Toni-Ann herself for all that she has accomplished.
"Her coaches (Justin and Elizabeth Crandall-Howell) at Cal have pushed her past every limit. She had great coaches (Mladen Stefanov and Kari Barnes) before, but these two (Justin and Elizabeth) enhance everything she does," mom pointed out.
Toni-Ann started representing Jamaica in 2010, a year after she achieved level 10 status, and since becoming level 10 she has been crowned state champion all four years she has competed.
"It's a great season coming in as a freshman and I owe it a lot to my teammates and all the support from my coaches. Pre-season was a lot of work, as I was fairly inexperienced coming in. But I got a lot of support from teammates and coaches and I knew they trusted my training. I give 100 per cent and they said it would work out, and so far it has; it has been a great season," said Williams.
"I didn't expect to do as well as I did and it's pretty exciting to see all of the support and encouragement from everyone. It's pretty exciting and an unforgettable freshman year, and I can't wait to see what happens when I come back (next year)," she added.