June 8, 2010
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By Andrew Gavin
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - There will be only three freshmen in the 24-athlete field when the long jump gets underway Saturday at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, and UCF freshman Sonnisha Williams (Jacksonville, Fla.) exceeded even her own expectations by being one of those three.
"It has shocked me some," Williams said of her success. "I knew that I had it in me and that I could jump over 20 feet and maybe qualify for nationals and regionals, but I actually didn't see it happening. I knew there were a lot of good jumpers, and I did not see it happening for me this quickly. I am excited that it did."
The Raines High School product was a heralded recruit after winning the FHSAA 2A state title in the long jump as a senior, but things did not really click for Williams for most of her freshman season at UCF. Heading into the Conference USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in mid-May, Williams had yet to post a jump over 20 feet.
Everything changed on May 15, when Williams recorded a jump of 20-6.25/6.25m to finish second only to Olympic Bronze Medalist Blessing Okagbare and earn a spot to the NCAA East Championships as the 10th seed. The only thing that prevented the freshman from shattering the school record was a high wind reading on the jump, giving her more motivation heading into the NCAA preliminary round.
"[The jump at conference] gave me a lot of confidence because it made me want to go out and do it again and get a wind-legal jump to break the school record and the freshman record as well," Williams said.
That possibility looked bleak through the first two of her three jumps at regionals. She followed a mediocre first jump with a foul on her second attempt, making both advancing to the finals and a trip to nationals look like long shots.
With her season on the line, Williams landed the best wind-legal jump of her young career (20-6.25/6.25m), shattering the school and freshman records in the event. That mark would eventually prove to be enough to punch Williams' ticket to this week's national meet.
"I knew there were going to be a lot of good jumpers and I knew that I had to get a good jump in. I had a rough start with a bad first jump and then I fouled on my second attempt, but [head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert] came over and told me to relax and that I could jump far. It ended up being my best jump of the weekend."
Having shown the propensity to perform at her best with the most at stake, Williams will look to again come up big this Saturday. Now beaming with the confidence that she was searching for all season, the freshman has lofty goals for her first trip to nationals.
"I would like to jump 6.40 meters or higher and get in the top-8 and become an All-American my freshman year," Williams stated boldly.
One of three Knights to advance to nationals, Williams will get that chance Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. She will get three jump attempts in the trials, and the top-nine athletes will make a three-attempt final immediately following.
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