On a day that could have potentially ended its season, the men’s gymnastics team delivered its finest performance of the year to fly past the rest of the field and claim the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship.
The Owls scored a 208.400 to best Illinois-Chicago (202.700), Army (200.300), Navy (198.750), William & Mary (197.800), Springfield (182.000), MIT (176.150) and James Madison (161.000) at McGonigle Hall Saturday. The title marked the Owls’ first since 2003.
“Every ECAC Championship is an important win because it means you are the best in your conference,” Turoff said. “I knew that my guys could do it from the way they have performed the past month, and the way they trained.”
It marked Turoff’s 15th career ECAC Championship and Temple’s 23rd all-time. With the win, the Owls secured an automatic bid into the NCAA Championships, which will be held at Penn State April 12-14. The team total of 208.400 surpassed the Owls’ previous season-best of 206.450, notched just two weeks ago. The Owls posted the best overall team scores in floor exercise,
pommel horse, vault and parallel bars – four of the six events.
The Owls were ignited by the performances of junior Luke Vexler (52.350), junior Sterling Kramer (51.950) and sophomore John Vogtman (50.800), who claimed the top three individual all-around performances. The likes of this feat hadn’t been seen since Southern Connecticut did it in 1980.
“There were just tons of people here yesterday,” Vexler said. “And the feeling of sticking my vault in the last event and turning to all the alumni and my family – that’s actually what is the best feeling, the whole support everyone felt when we were landing our vaults,” he continued.
The event of the day for the Owls came on floor exercise, as the team combined for a 36.300 point total. Senior floor specialist Clay Stewart led the way with a score of 9.450 and junior Luke Vexler came in with a 9.200. Other bright spots for the Owls were made by senior Derek Shepard, who placed fifth overall in rings with a score of 8.950 and freshman Patrick McLaughlin, who continued his stellar rookie campaign with a seventh-place finish overall with a 50.100.
On Sunday, during the individual leg of the competition, the Owls made the home crowd proud once more by earning two first-place medals, three second-place honors
and one third-place award.Vogtman ran away with the most hardware, successfully achieving first in vault with an electrifying 9.100 routine and taking second place in both pommel horse (8.600) and rings (8.900).
Stewart walked away with first place in individual floor exercise with a 9.500 score.The Owls didn’t win the parallel bars event, but were well represented with a second place finish courtesy of Kramer and a third place finish from Vexler. The ECAC Championships adjourned with the Owls savoring victory, and if they can continue to fine tune routines in the upcoming weeks, they may just have an outside opportunity to hoist an NCAA Championship trophy as well.
“Well we are going up against teams that score over 210, so that’s the next goal,” Turoff said. “Can we score that high? It’s possible. We are trying to eliminate more small errors because if everybody eliminates a one-tenth error than your score goes up 2.4, and that’s a pretty good jump.”
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.