UCLA Gymnastics NCAA Championships Blog - Friday, Apr. 11

April 11, 2008

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Welcome to the UCLA Gymnastics NCAA Championships blog. This is Liza David, UCLA Assistant Sports Information Director, and I will be chronicling the Bruins' NCAA run, starting at this weekend's NCAA Southeast Regionals.

You know it's Championship season when the Bruins get sent cross country for Regionals. This is the fourth time in the last five years we've been sent far - 2004 was at NC State, 2006 at Arkansas, 2007 at West Virginia and 2008 at Florida. This seemed like the longest trip yet. It basically took 12 hours to get from campus to our hotel in Gainesville. But at least we're going to good weather. I have heard that some of the other teams are having difficulties flying out of or into the Midwest. Utah, for example, had to wait for hours at the Salt Lake City airport before their flight got cancelled due to the storms, and they had a mad scramble to make it out to Minnesota. They should make it there, but they may not make it on time for their practice session today. We were thisclose to going to that Regional, so after hearing all that, I'd say we're pretty happy to be here in sunny Florida!

The trip started with the team leaving campus at 7:15 am on Thursday for nearby LAX. Pretty soon after we arrived, some of the girls noticed a guy waving at the gate across from us. Turns out it was former Bruin and current NFL star Maurice Jones-Drew. When Maurice was at UCLA, he was one of the gymnastics team's biggest supporters and was a fixture, along with many other football players, at the meets. Maurice used to come in costume, but I think the costumes have been retired, along with, sadly, the instant replay booth. Maurice visited with us for a little while, although he's been gone from UCLA for so long that he only knew our upperclassmen and his former football teammate PJ.

We soon began our flight to Orlando, with a short stop in Albuquerque. The stop was great because not only did it make the trip seem not as long, but it also afforded some of us a chance to move to the exit row, where the leg room was luxurious. When you have to unbuckle your seatbelt to get to your bag under the seat in front of you, you know you have a lot of leg room. Three hours after leaving Albuquerque, we finally arrived in Florida. Coming down the escalator to baggage claim, we saw a limo driver holding up a sign that read 'Christina Aguilera'. Could we run into two stars in one day in two different airports? Not this time. Without an Aguilera sighting, to Kristina Comforte's dismay, we grabbed our bags and headed off for a two-hour drive to Gainesville.

After all that traveling, the Bruins got to sleep in a bit on Friday, with our practice session being scheduled at 2 pm (although most of us are still working off Pacific time, which would be 11 am). Practice went well - no injuries to report, and that's always a good thing! It's always fun to watch the floor exercise run-throughs from all the schools. Comforte is back training on floor again, and it was great to see her satirically hilarious floor routine again. Forte really sells that routine like no other.

The team enjoyed a nice outdoor Italian dinner before coming back to the hotel for a quick team meeting. The Bruins are definitely fired up and ready for competition on Saturday night.

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