BERKELEY – An already-strong California women’s gymnastics squad will enjoy another major boost of talent in 2014-15, thanks to California’s newest recruiting class. Two-time World Championships competitor and Jamaica National Team member Toni-Ann Williams and California’s 2012 Level 10 uneven bars champion Alicia Gallarzo have signed national letters of intent to join the Golden Bears next year, Cal head coach Justin Howell announced Wednesday.
“Toni is incredibly powerful and a very dynamic performer. She brings a wealth of international experience which will help prepare her for the pressure cooker of NCAA gymnastics,” Howell said. “Alicia brings elegance and clean lines that will help to compliment the artistic aspect of our program. Collectively, their strengths could not be more complimentary toward one another.”
Williams has competed at the international elite level and joins the team as a three-year member of the Jamaica National Team and two-time competitor at the Gymnastics World Championships. The Randallstown, Md. product trains at United Gymnastix, where she has been a member of the state gymnastics team since 2009-13. Williams claimed the Junior Olympic National Invitational Tournament title in 2010, and the JO beam title in 2011, where she also finished third all-around. Williams claimed this year’s Level 10 floor title at the Region 7 Championships and uneven bars title at the state championships. She was also Maryland’s 2011 and 2012 Level 10 all-around champion.
"The first time I watched Toni Ann practice I was blown away by her power. The ease with which she does some of the most difficult gymnastics in the world is amazing,” Howell said. "Toni performs a double front dismount off of the balance beam. There are less than five gymnasts in the world to have ever competed this dismount. With her combination of unique gymnastics and powerful skills, there is no question that she will have a strong presence in NCAA gymnastics."
California native Gallarzo also joins Howell’s second recruiting class as head coach. She trains with 1992 Olympian and UCLA associate head coach Chris Waller at Wallers’ Gym Jam, where she finished ninth on balance beam at the 2013 JO Nationals. Gallarzo was California’s Level 10 uneven bar champion in 2012 and a runner-up on beam at this year’s SoCal State Championships.
"Alicia has such an elegant look to her gymnastics. Gymnastics is an artistic sport and it is rare to find an athlete that has so many natural qualities to set her apart from the rest of the field. Alicia's long clean lines will set her apart and help our team continue to build our brand of beautiful gymnastics," Howell said.
Cal will also see an immediate boost in its lineup this season with the introduction of Emily Richardson, a powerful all-around gymnast who will join the team in December. Richardson currently trains at the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy and has claimed all-around titles at the Houston National Invitational and the WOGA Classic. She was also the first alternate for this year's JO Nationals.
The trio will be Howell’s eighth, ninth and 10th additions to the women’s gymnastics roster since he was announced as head coach after the 2012 season. In his first year as head coach, the Bears advanced to their first regional berth as a team since 2007 and set the program’s second-highest score in history.
Read more about Cal's 2014-15 NLI signees below:
Hometown: Burbank, Calif.
High School: Burbank
Club: Wallers’ Gym Jam Academy
High School/Club: MVP of her Wallers’ Gym Jam Academy squad in 2011 and 2012…Ninth on balance beam at 2013 JO Nationals…Second all-around and third on vault at the 2013 Region I Championships...2012 Level 10 state uneven bar champion, and second on vault, floor and all-around…Claimed the beam title at the Monarchs Invitational in 2012…Second on vault at the 2012 SoCal State meet…Champion on beam and fifth all-around at the 2012 Elite Qualifier…2010 Level 10 state all-around and beam champion, and third on bars…Recognized by her club team with the Heart of a Champion award in 2011 for her self-confidence, determination and focus on vault…Coached by 1992 U.S. Olympian Chris Waller
Personal: Hobbies include arts and crafts and DIY projects…Also took guitar lessons…Parents are Marclino and Josie…Has one sister - Ariana
Hometown: Randallstown, MD.
High School: Roland Park Country School
Club: United Gymnastix
High School/Club: Member of the Jamaica National Team in 2011, 2012 & 2013…2013 & 2011 World Championships participant…Maryland state team member from 2009-13, claiming third as a team in 2013…2013 Level 10 Regional all-around champion…Level 10 State all-around champion in 2012 & 2011…Region 7 team member in 2011, claiming first on beam and third all-around…2010 JO National Invitational Tournament Champion…Has competed in Montreal, Canada, Tokyo, Japan and Belgium…Trained at United Gymnastix with coach Mladen Stefanov…Attended Roland Park Country School…Co-President of her school’s Student Diversity Committee…Member of the Roses Repertory Dance Company
Personal: Suffered a deep hand rip at the 2011 World Championships that prevented her from competing on bars and diminished her chances of qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games…Spent summer of 2013 by hosting other Jamaican athletes in Maryland and training with them at her gym…Hobbies include hanging out with her sisters, watching Netflix, reading and listening to music…Parents are Tony and Marlene…Has three siblings – Maya, Kristine and Zitafa