Decorated freshman anticipates first RU?outing

<p>Junior Alyssa Straub competes last year on the uneven bars, where head coach Louise Levine praised freshman Jenna Williams.</p>

Junior Alyssa Straub competes last year on the uneven bars, where head coach Louise Levine praised freshman Jenna Williams.

A former state champion and multi-faceted gymnast in high school, Rutgers gymnastics freshman Jenna Williams feels her best days of competition are still ahead and embraces new challenges at the NCAA level.

The Bordentown, N.J., native is a decorated gymnast, highlighted by titles at the New Jersey State Championships in uneven bars in 2010, balance beam in 2011 and vault in during the last two seasons.

She has also been a USA Gymnastics national qualifier in the all-around and was tabbed the first alternate for the national team in 2011 after finishing first on bars and second on vault at regional competition.

“[Williams] is a strong all-around performer who is a dynamic vaulter and talented swinger on the uneven bars,” said head coach Louis Levine. “She will immediately challenge for a spot on these events as a freshman.”

Williams’ collegiate accolades have yet to be determined.

In only the preseason of her rookie campaign, she already realizes it will not be an easy transition to tackle.

“It’s definitely a lot harder than it is in high school, obviously, with managing your school time, practicing and keeping your body healthy,” Williams said. “In high school, I’d be so much further along than I am now. But [college gymnastics] is definitely a lot more fun and enjoyable.”

The experience of a true team culture is another potential change for Williams.

Bordentown (N.J.) High School does not have a gymnastics team, and she opted not to compete as an individual in high school. Instead, Williams competed for a club team, but with athletes she did not bond with often outside the gym.

Williams feels there are positive team dynamics at Rutgers and personal support around her, giving her reasons to be optimistic as she begins her Scarlet Knights career.

“Just how much the girls get along and that the coaches seem very into the girls,” she said of why she chose to attend Rutgers. “They’re here for our best interest and making us the best. Girls are still learning new skills instead of keeping to their own, and the girls just seem very welcoming.”

As a freshman, she thinks her biggest strengths — the vault and uneven bars — can bolster the Knights’ lineups in competition.

She also envisions becoming a more team-oriented gymnast, rather than only an individual performer.

“I just want to improve on hitting everything, being consistent and making my assignments not just for myself, but for the team,” Williams said.

Levine believes that along with Williams, several of the Knights’ eight freshmen will make an impact this season.

“I think we’re going to have freshmen competing in every event,” he said. “Pretty much two or three on every event is definitely a potential way of going. They’re going to play a vital role into the success of our team this year.”

For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GJohnsonTargum.

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