Jay Clark’s excitement was palpable and justified and inadvertently cringe-worthy. He earned the right to be pumped about Georgia’s terrific win at the Auburn regional and how his Gym Dogs are positioned to potentially win their 11th title at the Division I National Championships this weekend.
|MORE CHAMPIONSHIP INFO|
|Regional selections announced|
No one will accuse him of being insensitive, but you could almost hear west coast coaches’ teeth grinding when Clark spoke about competing at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga., and said “We feel like we’ve captured a little momentum and are hopeful that we can go 45 minutes down the road and do something special.”
Forty-five minutes down the road. To put that in context as to the advantage that is for Georgia and the other Southeastern Conference teams who competed at Duluth in the conference championship about two weeks ago, consider this:
• Stanford couldn’t get a flight out of the San Jose airport 15 miles away from Palo Alto, but instead will take a 34 minute bus ride to San Francisco for their 7:30 a.m., 4 hour, 34 minute flight to Atlanta.
• Oregon State will bus an hour and 47 minutes from Corvallis for its 4 hour, 30 minute flight from Portland to Atlanta.
• UCLA’s flight time from Los Angeles to Atlanta is 4:30 and Utah’s from Salt Lake City to Atlanta is 3:35.
Everything after the flight time is almost Georgia’s trip in total. And this isn’t even considering the travel they all had at regionals. It has been a challenging couple of weeks for sure.
“I don’t ever want to make excuses, and I’m not making excuses [now],” Valorie Kondos, UCLA’s coach said. “It’s been a rough ride getting from L.A. to Fayetteville, Ark. [for the regional], and it’s not a direct flight. It took about 11 hours to get there then get back and two weeks later come to Atlanta. And we’re dealing with some back issues because of that.
“I’m not saying I would do anything differently except maybe try to get flights at an earlier [flight] time so you don’t have to connect. We get to come out early enough to get the kinks out. We’re not worried about that at all. It’s not an easy load, but we’ll make the trip.”
So will Stanford, which will adjust its schedule this week to ease the adjustment to the Eastern time zone. Additionally the team will rise at 4:30 a.m. to make that early flight out of San Francisco.
Utah’s approach is to simply roll with it. The advantage the SEC schools in the national championships aside from Georgia – Alabama, Florida and LSU – have in competing there and those schools’ proximity to the venue Utah acknowledges, but refuses to dwell on. It is, for them, mind over matter.
“I think it depends on how you approach it,” said Megan Marsden, Utah’s coach. “If you help your athletes [handle it]. With our athletes, we use a lot of mental imagery. It’s helpful to an athlete if they kind of know what the arena looks like, and they know how the equipment is set up. That kind of thing can be an advantage if you use it. For those of us coming for the first time, we’re going to in the practice session, adjust as quickly as we can and make it a little more even, if possible.
“We try to talk about things in the best way possible. Maybe give them some ideas on how they might best address that. We talk to our athletes that maybe on the front side of leaving for bed a little earlier.
“I know we’re in the early practice session Thursday which starts at 10 in the morning, which is really 8 in the morning for us. We talk about that. [They have] to keep in mind that they’ll be flipping and twisting at 8 o’clock in the morning. It’s different for our girls. You just address it with a little time, athletes are pretty good to adjust.’