The Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship’s team trophy will return to McGonigle Hall where the Temple men’s gymnastics team snatched away the title from the University of Massachusetts Minutemen last Saturday.
The Owls won with a 210.500-team score to edge out UMass (208.200) and William & Mary (208.700).
“It’s pretty neat,” Temple coach Fred Turoff said. “UMass pushed us quite a bit this year to a greater performance. We have a wonderful rivalry with them. But we saw by smaller and smaller margins we were catching [them]. I knew we had the personnel to match-up [with UMass], it was just a matter if we were better that day.”
Turoff, the newly crowned ECAC coach of the year, had a strategy heading into the championships. All 11 teams competing chose their starting event in order of national ranking.
Temple chose second behind UMass and Turoff decided to start the team on its weaker events: the parallel bars and horizontal bar, which would leave them to finish the meet with its two strongest events: rings and vault.
The plan was a surefire and the team fed off the crowd’s energy heading into the last two events.
“I felt the momentum, I came here pretty positive,” junior Kevin Hallinan said. “I knew everyone was going to make just about everything they did. We’ve just been building and building everyday so we just had a great meet. We just went out there on fire and just battled and had a great time. We had rings and we had vault coming up and that’s our two best events.”
The Owls trailed UMass and William & Mary by only a few tenths of a point heading into their last exercise: the vault.
“I knew we were going to win the meet, I just had to see it happen, that’s all. It would have taken an amazing disaster to lose at that point,” said Turoff, whose team is the conference’s best at the vault. “However the boys did perform very well overall and we’ve now won the last 13 (championships) of the last 26 in my coaching career.”
UMass had won the last three team championships after Temple’s stretch of nine straight titles dating back to 1990. The freshman class of 1976 was the only class not to win a team championship under Turoff.
“We’ve been trying three years to get it and now we finally got it,” said junior Richie Maguire.
Maguire landed a meet-best 9.5 on vault and captured the all-around title with a 53.5. He was the backbone of the team throughout the meet and showed concentration and determination when under pressure.
Maguire then placed first in both the vault and parallel bars in the individual event finals last Sunday. Juniors Theo Maes and Alex Weber placed second and third, respectively, in the vault. Freshman Nyika White took third place in the rings while sophomore Travis Kitchen placed second in the parallel bars.
The team will now head to the NCAA national qualifying competition in Norman, Okla., next Thursday. Temple men’s gymnastics won its only NCAA title (team championship) in 1949.
Chris Silva can be reached at email@example.com