Bringing it home

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CONNOR SHOWALTER TTN The men’s gymnastics team captures the ECAC championship title for the first time in four years. The Owls stand on the podium with the championship trophy on Friday, April 6, at McGonigle Hall. Temple set a new program record for total team points with 347.400.

The Owls set a new team record en route to gold at ECACs.

Had it not been for a peanut allergy, nobody on Temple’s roster would know who graduate gymnast Blake Collins was.

After planning on attending the Naval Academy, Collins was turned down. It was at this point that he contacted coach Fred Turoff and went down a different path.

“[Collins] is a very nice success story,” Turoff said. “He was a walk-on as a freshman and he couldn’t make the team. He actually wanted to go to the Naval Academy but got rejected due to a peanut allergy. He contacted me in June [2008] and asked to be on the team.”

Collins is one of the few members on the team that was a part of the club in 2008 when Temple last took home the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship. However, the Columbia, Md. native redshirted the season and was forced to watch from the sidelines.

Entering team competition on Friday, April 6, Collins had a goal to help No. 10 Temple win as a competing member.

“We did not want to put it up higher than it was,” Collins said. “It’s a championship, but we just needed to treat it like any other meet.”

Under Collins’ leadership, the Owls did just that. Posting a team score of 347.400, the Owls won the ECAC title, broke a school record for team points scored and earned their team a spot in the NCAA championships.

Collins’ performance also qualified him for Top 10 individual competition on Saturday, April 7, in which he placed third on the horizontal bar with a score of 14.100.

“I wasn’t really worried about placing, I just wanted to do a good routine,” Collins said. “I knew it was my last time at McGonigle [Hall] so it’s a great feeling. It’s a good feeling to end on a positive note and the fact that we brought the cup back. That is what is really important, that we won as a team.”

When Collins began his career at Temple, he was anything but a leader. Now in his fifth year at Temple, he headlines a senior class that will have six gymnasts graduate at the end of the semester.

“When [Collins] came in as a freshmen he just did what everybody else told him to do and went with the flow,” senior Adam Al-Rokh said. “Now he has his own thing that he does and helps lead other people. It was just a great growing up process.”

Although Collins did not compete as a freshman, he was named the 2010 Most Improved Gymnast of the Year by the Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League, an ECAC affiliate. In his final year with the team, his teammates vocalized their respect for Collins by electing him team co-captain.

“[Collins] has been one of the best captains and best friends that I have ever met,” senior gymnast Matt Martin said. “It has been a blessing to have him. He gives everything to the team.”

Turoff said that Collins was elected by his teammates, not by coach selection, because they respect his work ethic, spirit, consistency and leadership that he provides. Collins however, gives himself far less accolades.

“It is easy to be a leader on a team where there are a lot of other leaders,” Collins said. “It is easy when the team gets along so well and has a lot of leaders outside of our ‘captain’ titles.”

Collins will not take credit for leading the team to national competition.

“Collins can do whatever he wants,” Martin said. “If he wants to have a future in gymnastics he will and if he chooses to go on to other things he will excel as well. It is all about his work ethic. [Collins] is one of the hardest workers I have ever met and it is up to him.”

Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at ibrahim.jacobs@temple.edu.

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