April 14, 2011
CLEVELAND - With rock and roll music pounding out over the loudspeakers at the Wolstein Center on the Cleveland State campus, the No. 1-seeded Alabama gymnastics team went through its final practice prior to the NCAA Championships which gets underway Friday.
The Crimson Tide, along with Illinois, UCLA and Kent State, went through a 90-minute practice, adjusting to the equipment, which is positioned on four-foot podiums in the center of the arena. Alabama is the only team here this weekend that has already competed on the podium twice this year, first at the Metorplex Meet during the regular season and then at the Southeastern Conference Championships in March.
With the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just down the street, the background music and the 12-foot guitars that adorn the arena are certainly appropriate. Also appropriate is the buzz in the arena that comes from a very competitive situation in the NCAA regional championships, as well as the fact that host team Kent State became the first team seeded sixth in a regional to advance to the NCAA Championships.
After the practice was over, the Tide took care of its media obligations, with senior Kayla Hoffman and coach Sarah Patterson meeting with the media at the championship press conference followed by a visit with CBS which included a photo shoot and interviews.
"Coming to the NCAA Championships never gets old," Patterson said during the press conference. "It has been an amazing season from an amazing young, talented group of athletes. More importantly, they may have enjoyed this journey thus far and we hope to enjoy it further in the next few days."
Hoffman, making her fourth and final appearance at the NCAA Championships was pleased to share this season with this team.
"It is such an honor and privilege to be here," Hoffman said. "We are ready to embrace it, have fun and not worry about the outcome or the little things. We're looking to have fun within the team and know that we have only so many moments and memories left with this team. We are all just trying to enjoy it."
Thursday night will include a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the NCAA banquet before returning to the hotel to get ready for Friday's the semi-finals. Alabama is Friday's in the second session, which gets underway at 6 p.m. EDT, with Florida, Oregon State, Utah, Illinois and Kent State. The NCAA Super Six Team Finals are Saturday starting at 4 p.m. EDT.