One of the toughest feats in sports is to repeat as champions.
Temple’s men’s gymnastics team went into the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championships last weekend as the reigning champion and didn’t disappoint.
With an impressive score of 212.225, the Owls captured the men’s team title once again.
Seniors Alex Weber and Richie Maguire were the catalysts on the mat.
Weber captured the all-around title with a score of 53.125 and Maguire finished third at 51.80.
Head coach Fred Turoff said a speech by senior co-captain Mike Ast summed up many of the feelings surrounding the team after the victory.
“Mike pointed out that Richie and Alex have been the guys everyone has counted on since they joined the team. They have been the backbone of the team for four years,” Turoff said.
“This title was very special for them and the other five seniors that are leaving after this season.”
The Owls came into the championships as the No. 3 seed and managed to qualify eight of 12 gymnasts into individual event finals.
Turoff said the pressure was high entering the ECAC championships.
“We had to win the ECACs to qualify for NCAA Championships and our guys handled the pressure extremely well,” he said.
The real test lies ahead for the Owls, who will be taking on national powerhouses in the NCAA Championships.
Upper echelon teams like Penn State and Oklahoma routinely score in the lower 220s, which will present a daunting challenge for Temple in nationals.
“Our expectations are realistic for nationals. We have some heavy opposition and the focus of this next week and a half will be to cover up some of those errors made at ECACs to gain a point here and a point there,” he said.
“If we raise our point total two or three points we could challenge for a top six position and that is our goal.”
The road to an NCAA title will go through Temple University, as the school will host the competition at the Liacouras Center Apr.12-13.
Turoff hopes this home gym advantage will provide a boost to the underdog Owls.
“Our crowds this year have been respectable,” he said.
“The meets are an entertaining show and I’m hoping we have a few thousand fans out to support the team in this crucial tournament.”
This year’s team has been a special one for Turoff.
He’ll have to say goodbye to seven seniors.
“I’ve had more talented teams in my 27 years of coaching but this team worked extremely hard and got as much out of their talent as possible,” Turoff said.
“They were ECAC champions and the season was full of some special moments.
It will be sad to see the seniors go.”
Doug Saylor can be reached at Dgsylr@temple.edu