Beavers on the Road: The Cleveland Experience
April 14, 2011
By Jason Amberg
If you didn't know better one might think the city of Cleveland has been invaded. The invaders? More than 150 elite gymnasts representing 25 universities all trying to take in the Cleveland Experience during their downtime around the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships beginning tomorrow and going through Sunday.
But from my perspective it is Cleveland receiving the Beavers Experience.
The Beavers have had a long couple days since departing Gill Coliseum at the unfortunate hour of 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. Six hours of flying, a plane change at Chicago's Midway International Airport and three time zones later we arrived in Cleveland, the city where dreams come true ... or so the Southwest Airlines flight attendant told us upon touching down on the "North Coast."
After a team dinner at The Corner Alley, an all-purpose restaurant and bowling alley wrapped in one, in Cleveland's East Fourth Street Neighborhood the Beavers retired to their rooms for some shut-eye as we sought to acclimate to Eastern time after an early wake-up.
Thursday was jam-packed with various activities and appointments for the entire team. This morning the Beavers worked in time for study hall before heading off to the Wolstein Center on the campus of Cleveland State. Head coach Tanya Chaplin and Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year Leslie Mak talked to the media at this afternoon's NCAA Championships press conference. From there Mak joined the rest of OSU's upperclassmen for a video shoot with CBS, which will air the championship event via tape delay May 14. Mak along with fellow juniors Olivia Vivian and Stephanie McGregor and seniors Becky Colvin and Jen Kesler enjoyed a mini-dance party as the CBS crew taped for teaser footage when the entire show is put together. Judging by the CBS folks enjoyment of quintet of OSU gymnasts, the Orange & Black will be well-represented during the broadcast. The fourth-seeded Beavers finished their pre-practice activities with a session with Wolstein Center videoboard crew for use during tomorrow's introductions.
"We're all really excited to touch the equipment and get a feel for the arena," Mak said before practice during the press conference. "We have such an exciting time as a team when we're together so traveling is fun and being here is fun. The most stressful part of leading up to nationals is the practices and finishing your homework before you get here and things like that. Now that we're here, we're just really excited and this is the part where we take a deep breath and do what we've been practicing for all year."
With the fun stuff out of the way, the Beavers quickly transitioned to a more serious mode for their practice session (3-4:40 p.m.). The competition will be on a podium - meaning each apparatus is raised on a three-foot podium for better spectator viewing lines bringing the competitors more attention. The only OSU gymnasts that haven't performed on the podium in the past are sophomore Kelsi Blalock, who missed last year's national championships with an ankle injury, and freshman Brittany Harris. Both appeared to make the adjustment to the raised platform well and former elite gymnast Britney Ranzy seemed to have a little extra spring in her step. "It's bouncy" was the high-flying Ranzy's comment after a couple tumbling passes.
"Practice went very well," assistant coach John Carney said. "The (gymnasts) seemed relaxed and dialed and genuinely excited to be here."
Sophomores Kelsi Blalock and Melanie Jones, both of whom have been battling nagging injuries the past couple weeks, are ready to compete and are expected to be available on all of their events giving head coach Tanya Chaplin her entire arsenal ready for action Friday evening.
The teams finished their day with the annual NCAA Championships banquet, which was held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Those in attendance were entertained by the Cleveland Cavaliers' dance team, the Scream Team, which invited several gymnasts to the stage to join them ... Brittany Harris more than held her own with the professionals earning approval of the audience and high-fives from the Scream Team.
OSU camera jockey, Jeff Taylor, has been tirelessly documenting every moment since the Beavers' arrival in Cleveland. Check often at Beaver Nation Online and YouTube (osubeaversathletics) to see the action unfold from Jeff's point of view.
Fans can follow the meet via Live Stats at kentstatesports.com. In addition, a live web feed will be provided for all four championship sessions at ncaa.com. Saturday's Super Six will be televised by CBS via tape delay. In addition, fans are encouraged to follow all of the action via Twitter - @OregonStateGym.
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