ANNAPOLIS, MD. – It was the second day of competition at MacDonough Hall in Annapolis, Md., as four student-athletes from the men’s gymnastics team participated in the Eastern College Athletic Conference individual finals.
But the atmosphere was different compared to Friday. With 10 finalists qualifying for each of the six events, competition rotated through each athlete’s routine one at a time – leaving all eyes to sit, watch and cheer the acrobatics of some of the top gymnasts in the ECAC.
Brendan Williams competed on the pommel horse, with Evan Eigner following on the still rings. Jon Rydzefski took part on the horizontal bar, with Jakob Welsh finishing on the parallel bars.
The standout of the day was Eigner, as his score of 14.75 put him in a tie for third and made him the lone Owl to earn an individual medal in the conference finals.
“My main goal was to just be better than yesterday,” Eigner said. “The biggest thing I improved on was my handstands. There’s always room to improve on, but I’m content with how I did today.”
When asked about being the lone gymnast to represent Temple on the podium, Eigner – coach Fred Turoff’s son – replied with an answer that indicated how close-knit a gymnastics team can be.
“Growing up around the team, my main goal [is] to be associated with this team,” Eigner said. “To be the highest scorer and get the medal is unbelievable.”
Although Eigner was the only Owl to place in the conference championships, three other Owls did compete in Annapolis.
Williams started the Owls’ meet out on pommel horse, scoring a 13.45. His score dropped from his performance in the team competition a day prior, but he fought to stay on during the last few seconds of his routine and managed to finish without falling.
Assistant coach Patrick McLaughlin said Williams’ performance impressed him. McLaughlin has seen the senior’s consistency since day one at the university.
“Brendan’s been the most consistent guy on our team,” McLaughlin said. “He comes in, does his job every day. In meets, he’s been a leader for us because he stays on the event, stays relatively stable, does what he did in the gym and gets the job done.”
Following Eigner’s performance was Rydzefski, who scored a 13.4 on the horizontal bar. His routine was off to a great start as he hit all of his releases and was overall had a relatively clean performance – until a tricky dismount cost him as he stumbled upon landing.
McLaughlin said that Rydzefski had asked try a “double-double” dismount – a double back somersault with two twists – which is considerably harder than the “full-in” he had tried a day prior – which consists of just one back-flip with one twist. The risk-reward approach ended up costing Rydzefski, whose score dropped .3 points from the team finals.
Rounding out Temple’s day was Welsh, who earned a 13.5 on the parallel bars. Although he did improve by a tenth of a point, there is still work to be done.
“That wasn’t the best [routine] I’ve seen him do,” McLaughlin said of Welsh’s performance. “But I had very little doubt that he was going to hit it…and he did.”
Later, following the medals ceremony, Temple posed for a photo with the Illinois-Chicago gymnastics team. One of the signs held in front of the camera was “UIC stands with Temple Gymnastics.”
“We’re all one big family,” Eigner said of the camaraderie within the sport.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.