Arizona’s only participant in this week’s NCAA gymnastics championships will be a Florida Gator.
As the nation’s top all-around individual qualifier, senior Aubree Cristello has traveled to Pauley Pavilion without her UA teammates.
One of the 12 all-around competitors not on the 12 qualifying teams, she’s been paired with the country’s best squad.
So when Florida practices, she practices. When they compete, so does she.
Cristello was adopted by Utah’s team for last year’s championships. The Utes gave her a pin; she still talks to them on Facebook.
“It definitely feels lonely when I’m competing and I don’t have my teammates screaming for me,” she said, “and I’m with a team where I don’t know any of them.
“It’s a little awkward.”
Friday should be awkward for Cristello anyway.
She’s done gymnastics since age 3, and is walking away after nationals.
She has a marketing internship with Pepsi this summer and a gig in the athletic department’s marketing office next year. The 3.5 GPA student will her degree by next May.
For weeks, the 21-year-old has counted, with sadness, the number of practices left in her career.
I met her at the UA’s training facility Tuesday, her last day.
We figured she’d gone to the team’s practice facility four hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year. (Gymnastics’ offseason is shorter than its competitors). That’s 4,000 hours — about 166 days and 16 hours — of her life. And that’s just since coming to Tucson.
Read more about Cristello in Thursday's Arizona Daily Star.