Almost two weeks ago, the women’s gymnastics team suffered a loss greater than any meet.
They lost a mentor, a motivator, an inspiration and a friend.
Ken Anderson, the women’s gymnastics coach from 1986 to 2006, died March 20. The winningest coach in the program’s history, Anderson, 52, secured 235 wins in his 21-year tenure at Temple.
“He’s always been so supportive and such an inspiration to us all,” said senior Nicole Catrambone, who was a sophomore in Anderson’s final season. “We know that he’s watching over us and helping us to do our best.”
The Owls had Anderson on their minds Saturday when they placed fifth of eight teams at the ECAC Championships in Williamsburg, Va. Temple registered a season-high score of 190.825, slightly better than the 190.050 mark the squad finished with last year, when they also placed fifth.
“Obviously, our girls that were coached by him, seniors and juniors especially, are thinking of him,” current coach Aaron Murphy said.
He was an assistant under Anderson for four seasons before he became the team’s coach in 2006. “They pretty much dedicated the meet to him.”
Prior to Saturday’s ECACs, Murphy said he felt confident that the Owls were taking a strong squad into the competition, a group that could contend against any of the other seven competing teams.
Murphy’s gymnasts agreed.
“I’m very excited. We’ve been working really hard, and I think we’re going to show everybody what we’ve been working for the whole year,” senior Alycia Petitto said before the ECACs. “We had a couple of hard meets in the beginning of the year. We are starting to pick it up and I think at the ECACs we’re going to really shine.”
Although the Owls finished fifth, Murphy said it was “a close competition.”
“Any time you go to [the] conference [championships], it is going to be neck to neck,” Murphy said. “You have to go in hoping to have a perfect day. We didn’t.”
Despite their overall finish, the Owls had individual performers who earned top honors at the event.
On the balance beam, sophomore Nina Oteri took fourth place out of 48 competitors, by scoring 9.828 out of 10 while Desiree Meredith placed fifth of 48 with a 9.8 on the floor exercise.
In addition to the individual performances, Murphy said he hopes the Owls’ overall score will be enough to earn the team a spot in the USAG Nationals in Shreveport, La.
The top eight teams qualify for the five-day competition, which begins Tuesday, April 15.
Nick Hollenstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.