Senior Spotlight: Anastasia Webb

By Ashlee Buhler for Inside Gymnastics

You could say Anastasia Webb’s destiny was to become an Oklahoma Sooner. Maybe it was pure coincidence or maybe it was fate, but for Webb, the connection between home and the University of Oklahoma is hard to ignore.

1984 Olympian Bart Conner’s childhood home happens to be right around the corner from Webb’s and she even went to the same middle school and high school as he did. Conner went on to become an Oklahoma Sooner. Then came Kayla Nowak, who went to the same gymnastics club as Webb (Illinois Gymnastics Institute), followed by Hayley Scaman. Both went on to become Oklahoma Sooners. It was only fitting that Webb followed suit.

“It’s kind of special and ironic that I’m following in all these footsteps and I didn’t even realize,” Webb said. “I really looked up to Hayley. She was very confident in herself, very sweet, kind and humble. And she was just an amazing gymnast. I remember watching her on TV winning the national championship and was like, ‘Holy heck, I want to be doing that.’ Without evening knowing it, I was meant to be here.”

Webb’s journey has since come full circle. As she heads into the final phase of her gymnastics career at Oklahoma, she has one team national title under her belt and one more in the back of her mind before she hangs up her grips.

The Sooners will try to come out on top in a season that started rocky. When the pandemic cut her junior season short, Webb returned home to Illinois, where COVID restrictions had gyms shut down for months. At that point, the possibility of having a season looked doubtful.

“It was pretty scary,” Webb said. “I remember we had a Zoom call over the summer and I was like, ‘Are we going to even have a season my senior year?’”

In June, Webb decided to come back to Oklahoma where restrictions were lighter, so she could train and prepare for the upcoming season. She worked out at Dynamo Gymnastics, doing her best to keep a positive attitude and be a leader for her team.

“I honestly just took it one day at a time,” Webb said. “My coach Tom [Haley] kept saying over and over, ‘Just work your butt off right now and if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, but you can look back and say you worked really hard to get where you are right now.’ The mentality that I had was to never give up and to be super positive and not think of all the possibilities that could happen—because look at us now!”

The Sooners are currently tied with Florida at the top of the national rankings with just postseason play to go. This weekend, they will look to claim their 8th consecutive Big 12 title before shifting gears to the NCAA championships and winning the program’s fifth national title. Webb knows the competition is stiff, but feels good about her team’s chances.

“I have a lot of faith in our team,” Webb said. “I know we’re a pretty young team, but we have a lot of talent and I think we’re a great group of girls who work really hard inside and outside the gym. We have had our ups and downs this season, but I think that’s everybody. It will come down to that one moment and that one routine. Anybody could win and I’m excited to see what happens.”

In her four years as a Sooner, Webb has learned many valuable life lessons. She said she learned how to lose when the team lost to UCLA by less than half a tenth at the NCAA championships her freshman year. She learned how to win a season later when they bounced back to win the title her sophomore year. She learned how to overcome adversity and not to take anything for granted when her junior season was cut short due to the pandemic. Lastly, she learned how to be a team player, despite her own individual successes. This season, Webb has scored three perfect 10s and spent two weeks ranked 3rd in the national All-Around rankings, but those things, Webb said, are not what actually matters.

“I think I’ve had a total of four tens in my career—I was just happy with one,” Webb said with a laugh. “And honestly, I didn’t even know I was third in the nation until my coach told me. I try not to think about it. Yes, I am very happy with my performance senior year and being able to end on a high note is an amazing feeling, but the ultimate goal is to win that national championship as a team. Individual rankings and getting those 10s are just little sprinkles of happiness.”

Although she is capable of perfection and is one of the Sooner’s biggest contributors, Webb said she tries not to put too much pressure on herself to be perfect. The secret to her success is consistency and confidence—then the results will follow. This season she feels all her hard work in the gym is paying off.

“I think this is one of the first years where I’m just really having fun with every meet and not being so serious. I do a lot of numbers in the gym and if I’m consistent in practice, then I can go to a meet where it’s more nerve wracking, but I have confidence in myself. Having confidence and believing that you can hit under pressure is a big thing.”

Webb said when she looks back on her career, it is hard to pinpoint one memory that stands out the most. Although her beam routine on senior night, with her teammates surrounding her, is a special one she said she will never forget. “I literally started tearing up in my routine,” she said. However, winning a national championship, just like she watched Scaman do all those years ago, is an experience she said is like no other.

“Winning a national championship and having that under your belt is an amazing feeling,” Webb said. “I can’t even explain how it feels because you work so hard: the 6 a.m. practices, school, going to the gym. All of it coming together is a magical moment I will never forget.”

The lessons she has learned through the ups and downs of her career is something she will take with her as well, most notably through the heartbreak that came from last season.

“I’ve learned so many life lessons through all these moments,” Webb said. “I learned to never give up and that I need to be able to take those moments and not crumble but rise above it and find solutions that will benefit me. I’ve also learned to be driven, determined and fight for what I want in life, too. Gymnastics is a sport that requires a lot of discipline and I’m prepared for the future now and ready to take on anything.”

Webb is set to graduate in the spring and is in the process of applying to graduate school to get her master’s in health administration. Just like she did with gymnastics, she hopes to continue following in the footsteps of others; this time her family, who all work in the health field.

As for gymnastics, she isn’t ruling out the option of taking the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA but knows she will leave the sport with no regrets no matter what she decides.

“I feel like throughout my four years, even with the season being cancelled, I feel very satisfied with my gymnastics career and I feel like I gave it my all,” Webb said. “No matter what I’ll be happy in the end.”

Photo credit: Lloyd Smith

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