Onnie Willis Wins Honda Award For Gymnastics

May 5, 2003

UCLA senior gymnast Onnie Willis (Tacoma, WA) has been chosen as the 2002-03 Honda Sports Award winner as the nation's top female collegiate gymnast this season. Willis led UCLA to the 2003 NCAA, Regional and Pac-10 titles.

Willis, the 2003 Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year, finished her collegiate career with three NCAA team titles (2003, 2001, 2000), three Pac-10 titles (2003, 2002, 2000) and four regional titles, as well as the 2001 NCAA all-around co-championship and the 2002 Pac-10 all-around and bars titles. Her contributions at the Super Six Team Finals were tremendous under pressure situations. She competed in the leadoff position on the balance beam for the first time in her collegiate career and performed one of the best routines in her career, earning a 9.925. That mark set the stage for a team total of 49.525, which gave UCLA a three-tenths of a point lead going into the final rotation. During that last rotation, Willis was in yet another precarious situation, having to compete right after a teammate's fall. With the championship perhaps on the line, Willis responded on the floor exercise with a 9.9 that kept the Bruins' titles hopes alive until the final competitor clinched the win with a hit routine. Willis scored a 39.55 in the all-around during the Team Finals.

Also during the Championships, Willis earned first-team All-America honors in the all-around (10th place), vault (seventh place) and floor (eighth place), as well as second-team honors on balance beam. Her four All-America honors gave her 16 for her career, a new UCLA school record.

Willis was a model of consistency during the season, performing 53 routines without a fall and scoring 9.9 or higher in 31 of those 53 routines. She set or tied career-highs in the all-around (39.8, twice), bars (9.975), beam (9.975) and floor (10.0).

Academically, there are few finer student-athletes than Willis, who is a two-time Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar, NACGC Scholastic All-American, Verizon Academic All-District and Academic All-Pac-10 selection. She is also a community leader, serving on the Bruin Athletic Council, Athlete Mentor program and Career-Based Outreach Program, among others.

'Onnie Willis exemplifies what the character of a true student-athlete is. The integrity she holds in all aspects of her life is of the highest standard and is unwavering,' said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. 'We are all extremely excited that Onnie has been honored with this award in recognition of her integrity and character, as well as her accomplishments.

Willis is UCLA's fourth Honda Sports Award recipient for gymnastics, putting her in elite company with Sharon Shapiro (1980-81), Jill Andrews (1989-90) and Mohini Bhardwaj (2000-01). Willis is UCLA's 23rd overall Honda Sports Award winner.

'I feel really honored,' said Willis. 'It's an extremely prestigious award, and to be one of the few UCLA gymnasts to receive it is really amazing. I feel very privileged to be in the same league as Mohini, Jill and Sharon.'

In winning the Honda Sports Award, Willis becomes eligible for the Honda Broderick Cup, which honors the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year amongst 12 sports. The Honda Broderick Cup will be presented June 23 in the rotunda of Low Library at Columbia University in New York. Other nominees thus far are Natalie Coughlin (swimming) from California, Shalane Flangan (cross country) from North Carolina, Christine Sinclair (soccer) from Portland, Tiffany Snow (field hockey) from Old Dominion, Diana Taurasi (basketball) from Connecticut and Logan Tom (volleyball) from Stanford. Only three UCLA student-athletes have ever won the Honda Broderick Cup - Ann Meyers (basketball) in 1977-78, Jackie Joyner (track and field) in 1984-85 and Lisa Fernandez (softball) in 1992-93.

The Collegiate Women Sports Awards, sponsored by Honda, has completed its 27th year and recognizes the top woman collegiate athlete in each of 12 sports. In addition, the program honors the top women collegiate athletes representing Division II and III schools and the recipient of the Honda Inspiration Award. Ballots are distributed during the year to all NCAA senior woman administrators for each of the 12 sports to determine award winners in each sport. Nominees are recommended by the national governing bodies. The awards program is sponsored by American Honda Motor Co., Inc., which donates $1,000 to each nominee's school and $5,000 to each Honda Sports Award recipient school.

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