For the last two seasons, Paige Williams has been a major contributor in Minnesota’s vault and floor lineups. This year, however, she has stepped up her game to become one of the top floor workers in the conference, earning second place on the event at the Big Ten championship this weekend.
She attributes a lot of her success to a new leadership role she has stepped into this year, which has helped improve her confidence both in and out of the gym.
“This year we had a big incoming class, so I started to step more, like being more vocal in the gym,” Williams said. “But then I also had to make sure that I was being a leader by example, so I kind of had to step up my confidence in a way.”
This newfound confidence helped her earn two Big Ten Specialist of the Week honors this season.
“I know it meant a lot to her; she had never gotten that honor before,” head coach Jenny Hansen said. “She’s just such a phenomenal athlete. It’s pretty special to have someone like Paige on our team and seeing her growth. We feel very proud as a coaching staff to see how far she’s come.”
Williams said her favorite moment of the season so far was at Elevate the Stage in Birmingham. Going into the last rotation on floor, the Gophers were neck-and-neck with Arkansas. The first five gymnasts hit, and it was down to Williams in the anchor position to secure the lead. She hit a flawless routine.
“I got a 9.975 which was really really cool,” she said.
The mark tied the school record and allowed Minnesota to take second, ahead of the Razorbacks.
Thanks in part to meets like this, Minnesota rocketed up in the ranks this season after barely making regionals a few years ago. Because of this, going into postseason the team big goals.
“We’ve got high expectations of moving onto the national championships, which we know is going to be incredibly difficult,” Hansen said. “Earlier in the year I don’t think we really truly believed we could do that. And over the last six weeks or so, they’ve seen their potential, and it’s been fun to see in the gym how much more focused they are and how much more committed they are to every little turn they take.”
The Gophers will find out their regional draw Monday, March 25 at 5 p.m. ET on NCAA.com.
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Article by Mary Emma Burton
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