The excursion began in Jacksonville.
It began at the NCAA East Preliminaries, held at the end of May, and the chaotic stretch for a few of UCF’s track & field athletes ended last week with a trip to the NACAC Under-23 Championships held in Guanajuato, Mexico.
Refusing to get distracted against some of the world’s greatest athletes, Sonnisha Williams, Octavious Freeman and Aurieyall Scott used the experience to see the world and put a positive foot forward for themselves as individuals and for coach Caryl Smith Gilbert’s program.
“The traveling has definitely been interesting,” Williams said. “It’s been bittersweet and up and down. Sometimes you just want to sleep in your own bed, but we have a task that we need to complete.
“I think it’s good, though. I love going to different places and seeing different things.”
Nerves and excitement levels were intermittent as well. At the NCAA Regional level, Williams and her teammates entered a level playing field with fellow collegiate athletes. Predictably, the Knights performed well in familiar territory, advancing to the National Championships where they performed admirably.
Once they reached Oregon for the United States Olympic Trials, along with senior hurdler Jackie Coward, a different breed of competition awaited. Competing against some of the best athletes on the planet proved to be a valuable learning experience.
Williams, a junior long jumper and sprinter, gathered her share of accolades along the way in the past two months setting two UCF school records, qualifying for the Olympic Trials and earning two All-America honors. Even earlier this year, Williams set her personal and school indoor long jump record at the Conference USA Finals, where her jump of 6.32 meters ranked her 10th in the country.
But all of that was paled by the whirlwind experience that followed.
“We started off at Regionals and I tried to just get the momentum going before heading into Nationals. I used those to prepare myself every day before trials,” Williams said. “My confidence level wasn’t where I would have liked it to be. It was much better during conference, but I was ready to go into trials because it’s something that I have never had the chance to do before, so I was very excited.”
In one of the busiest summers of Williams’ career, she is happy to have experienced competing at the highest level, winning and medaling at multiple events across the country — and neighboring ones — and knowing that in order to push herself beyond what she accomplished in 2012, both she and her teammates will need one thing: consistency.
“I’m not easily intimidated. I just go out there and stay in my own lane. There were some great jumpers at trials and it was a very good experience,” Williams said. “The No. 1 thing that I took away from all of this is that I am capable of competing at a higher level. They aren’t better than us. They’re more consistent, but they’re by no means ‘better.’”