Georgia, Stanford semifinal matchup spells family reunion for Vaculiks
It's 887 miles from Georgia's Stegeman Coliseum to the Fort Worth Convention Center, home of this weekend's NCAA gymnastics championships, according to Google Maps.
From Stanford's campus in Palo Alto, California, it's 1,683 miles.
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The Vaculik sisters will be a long way from their home in Whitby, Ontario, Canada, which is 1,439 miles -- or 2,316 kilometers -- from Fort Worth.
But that's nothing new. Neither is exactly going to college just down the road from home.
"The whole family's going to come down and watch us compete," Kristina said. "It's going to be exciting."
What is new, or at least uncommon, is competing in the same meet. Which is something that hasn't happened in a very long time for a multitude of reasons.
Not only are the sisters on different teams that are chasing a spot in the Super Six and competing for a national championship, Georgia and Stanford are in the same six-team semifinal, which will begin Friday.
"I never really saw it as competing against each other before because she was much older -- we're four years apart -- but now it's a team thing, and I guess we are competing against each other," Natalie said.
Big sister Kristina is used to competing on the big stage. She didn't compete in her sophomore year, to prepare for the 2012 London Olympics, where she helped Canada to a, national best, fifth-place finish. She also has won nine Canadian national titles and competed at the World Championships three times.
And last season she performed well in the NCAA semifinals and was a first-team All-American in the all-around, bars and beam.
Kristina appreciated the opportunites that came with competing in the Olympics, but "college is its own stage," Kristina said.
There's been no sibling trash talk leading up to Friday's competition. There has just been the usual interaction because the goal is the same: to win.
"We talk almost every day, about sister stuff and how things are going with school and gym and all the things like that," Kristina said. "It's great to see [Natalie] really enjoying her freshman year. I think she really bonds with the girls there and the experience she's getting, it's like nothing that she's ever had before."
If big sister Kristina hadn't gotten into and excelled at gymnastics, there's a good chance Natalie never would have either. Seeing Kristina having a blast doing gymnastics made Natalia want to do it, she said.
"When I was really young I was always like, `I want to do what Kristina's doing. I want to be like her,'" Natalie said. "Gymnastics is a really grueling sport, so sticking with it, a lot of that was her. She was really inspiring."
Two sisters, two teams, one semifinal. The top three teams from each semifinal advance to the Super Six, which will take place Saturday. No doubt the Vaculiks want this reunion to last as long as possible.