NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships – Super Six Saturday
Saturday afternoon, I surprised Kelsey with a pair of tickets to the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships up at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland.
These were the team finals – the top 6 teams from the field of 12 qualifiers: Alabama, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, UCLA, and Utah. Seriously excellent programs, several of which we’ve watched on TV more than a few times in recent years, with really talent-packed teams.
I’ll admit that I had to be talked into it: Not for a lack of enthusiasm, but because there was a lot of stuff I wanted to get done, and awhile back we’d told Kelsey we probably wouldn’t be able to go anyway. So it was really a last-minute decision made Friday night when Jenn pointed out that the finals are usually held in one of the powerhouse college arenas – in other words, someplace not Cleveland (although, hey: Kent State qualified for this year’s championships, even if they didn’t make the Super Six finals on Saturday). And in fact, the “When are you going to get this chance again?” card worked perfectly, and Kelsey was pleasantly surprised, if not jump-around-spazzy, when I told her.
So even though we knew we’d have an enjoyable time, we really weren’t prepared for what happened when we got to the arena about a half-hour before the competition was set to start: Just seeing all the teams warming up, and realizing how close our seats were (four rows up), and being around the big groups of parents and fans who’d come here and were decked out in their school colors and keyed up for the competition, Kels and I had near-simultaneous moments of, “OhMyGoshWe’reAtTheNationalFreakingChampionships.“
The next three hours flew past – I was utterly unprepared for how quickly the competition unfolded, and how much fun it was going to be struggling to try and take in everything even though that’s all but impossible with four events going on all at once. You don’t get that sense from watching on TV, since they shoot every gymnast on every event and then edit the broadcast into a linear progression. (Now and then, you’ll catch something in the background – a gymnast’s beam routine that you watched a few minutes prior, for instance, visible during a tumbling pass on the floor.)
I got lucky and snapped this cell phone shot capturing four competitors in action at the same moment:
The other photos I took – admittedly, they’re not great quality, being sports action shots in an arena with flash photography prohibited – are here.
Kelsey and I were sitting in a section of friendly Nebraska fans, with the uneven bars right in front of us. Here’s a cell phone video of Michigan’s Sarah Curtis – one of my favorite collegiate gymnasts of the past few seasons – competing:
We had such a good time, and were sad when it ended, although we’re looking forward to seeing it when CBS broadcasts the event on May 14. (It will also be cool because despite knowing the outcome, we’ll get to see the routines we missed in person.)
After the trophies had all been handed out, we just kind of lingered, watching the athletes and the coaches mill around on the floor, chatting and taking pictures. The individual event finals weren’t held until the next day (today), but for the team competitors, in some cases, this was their last meet, and you could kind of feel, with the elation and excitement of the afternoon slowly dwindling, that sense of not wanting it all behind just yet.