Cal's Toni-Ann Williams Finally Got Her Chance At NCAAs

Cal Athletics

Two years ago, the Cal women’s gymnastics team advanced to the NCAA championships. It was just the second time—the first in 20 years—that the Bears were competing at the NCAA championships. And while Toni-Ann Williams, then a sophomore, had helped her team move on to the season’s pinnacle event, she wouldn’t be competing with them.

The Olympic test event, which was the final chance for gymnasts to qualify to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, was the same weekend as the NCAA championships. The decision, which Williams made before the season, was a tough one. It was made even more difficult at regionals.

“The day we qualified at regionals was probably the most bittersweet moment of realizing that I actually couldn’t be with the team,” Williams told FloGymnastics.

After competing at the 2016 Olympics and making history as the first Jamaican gymnast to do so, Williams entered her junior season ready to lead Cal to another shot at the NCAA championships. Instead, she spent much of the 2017 season off the competition floor after an Achilles tear in training ended her season.

Coming back from the injury proved to be one of the biggest challenges that she faced entering the 2018 season.

“It was definitely something I had to be ready for not only physically, but mentally,” Williams said. “It had been a long time since I had competed all-around and I wasn’t sure I had the mental stamina to compete.”

The redshirt junior learned a new dismount on uneven bars before the season. After competing a full-twisting double tuck for her entire collegiate and elite careers, Williams made the change to a double layout. It is a skill that she continued to perfect throughout the season.

“After I tore my Achilles and coming back, a double layout was an easier landing for me,” she said. “But that’s definitely been a challenge for me because it’s my first time ever competing it. I’m definitely working on it every meet.”

Cal traveled to Pac-12 rival Utah for regionals on April 7, confident in the team’s ability to finish in the top two and advance to regionals. Cal came off a bye entering the final rotation of the competition and were less than three-tenths ahead of Auburn for the second spot advancing out of the Salt Lake City regional.

The Bears hit their first five uneven bars routines to earn a 49.025 on an apparatus where they struggled in the first five meets of the season. Cal didn’t hit above a 49.0 on bars until February 10 when the Bears hosted UCLA. The slow approach was no reason for panic.

“This regular season has definitely been up and down for the team. We started off really slow in the beginning and we found our stride and we peaked at the right time,” Williams said. “You don’t necessarily have to start out winning or breaking records or anything like that. Sometimes it’s about finding your pace and finding your groove and with this team we have a lot of talent and a lot of depth.”

Entering the final rotation at regionals, Cal led Auburn by less than three-tenths. While Cal was on bars, Auburn was on balance beam. The Tigers had a chance to overtake Cal on its final routine, but a wobbly routine in the anchor spot sealed the second-place finish for Williams and her teammates.

While Williams will be back for the 2019 season, advancing to the NCAA championships gave her one more meet with the class that she came in with after an emotional competition at regionals.

“We cried a little bit at regionals and I was like, ‘No. No tears. We have one more round, one more fight,’” she said.

That final fight came in St. Louis at the 2018 NCAA Championships. While it was the second time for the team at nationals, it was the first time that Williams competed at NCAAs with her teammates by her side. She competed as an individual at NCAAs in 2015 during her freshman season and knew that there was plenty of potential for the future.

“When I went my freshman year, I went by myself and I absolutely knew this team had so much potential and can definitely be ranked among the best teams,’” Williams said. “It’s completely amazing that we’re able to go as a team. I knew our potential ever since I was a freshman and I knew that we would be able to get here. It’s amazing to be able to finally be able to go as a team and knowing where we’ve come from and how far we’ve gone.”

Cal finished ninth at the 2018 NCAA championships with a score of 196.500.

USA Gymnastics Seats New Board

Press release below via USA Gymnastics

INDIANAPOLIS, June 21, 2018 – At its June 20 meeting, the USA Gymnastics Interim Board of Directors confirmed the election of the new Board of Directors that was seated at the conclusion of the Interim Board’s meeting. Additionally, each of the five competitive disciplines has chosen its two representatives to serve on the newly created Programs Council. “We want to thank the Interim Board for their commitment to completing the necessary tasks of streamlining and reconstituting our Board of Directors in a short window of time,” said Kerry Perry, president and CEO of USA Gymnastics. “We look forward to working with the new Board to transform our organization to keep athlete safety and well-being as our priority and to promote a positive and empowered environment for our athletes and members to thrive and follow their dreams.” USA Gymnastics Board of Directors, as of June 20, 2018NOTE: Terms are staggered and indicated for each director.

USA & Canada Lead On Difficulty & Execution At The 2018 Junior Pan Ams

The 2018 Junior Pan American Games concluded last week in Buenos Aires, with Team USA taking home the team gold medal, in addition to multiple individual medals for Jordan Bowers, Leanne Wong, and Tori Tatum. Team Canada also took home multiple medals, including the team silver and individual medals for Zoe Allaire-Bourgie and Imogen Paterson. 

Event Finals Qualifiers - 2018 Junior Pan American Championships

Christy Ann Linder

Below are the gymnasts who qualified for the individual event finals at the 2018 Junior Pan American Championships, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The finals will be held Friday, June 15. The top eight gymnasts on each event, with a maximum of two gymnasts per country, qualify for event finals. 

USA, Bowers Strike Gold At 2018 Junior Pan Am Championships

USA Gymnastics

Press release below via USA Gymnastics:

2019 Nastia Liukin Cup Series Qualifying Meets Announced

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Press release below via USA Gymnastics:

Wong, Bowers Lead Top USA Junior Women In The 2018 Pan American Champs

Christy Ann Linder

The 2018 Junior Pan American Championships takes place this week, with competition starting on June 13 and concluding on June 15 in Buenos Aires. The event includes a team final, all-around final, and event finals for both the men and women. Team USA is sending top juniors Jordan Bowers, JaFree Scott, Tori Tatum, and Leanne Wong. 

Team USA Set For Junior Pan American Championships

Team USA is set to compete at the Junior Pan American Championships this week in Buenos Aires. The men's and women's competition will be held June 13-15 and consists of a team competition as well as individual all-around and event competitions.

A New Mentality For Kyla Ross In UCLA's Title-Winning Season

Kyla Ross has competed on some of the biggest stages in elite gymnastics—the Olympic Games in London, the World Championships in Belgium and China. She was a two-time world all-around medalist and was the silver medalist at back-to-back national championships.

Opinion: The Engaged, Strategic Leadership That USA Gymnastics Needs

© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

For over a year now, USA Gymnastics has been operating in a state of turmoil from the backlash of Larry Nassar’s horrific crimes. What started as the largest sex abuse scandal in sports history has evolved to show major flaws in the way that the national governing body for gymnastics is run. They have been through a wave of resignations at the highest levels: the president of USAG, the national team coordinator, and the senior vice president of the Women’s Program, to name a few. 

Utah To Host 2018 American Classic And Hopes Classic

Press release below via USA Gymnastics.