After a second-place showing in the West Point Invitational, Temple’s sixth-ranked men’s gymnastics team has set its goals high.
And, according to senior Michael Ast, anything less than a trip to the final round of the three-day NCAA championship tournament is unacceptable.
“We started out this year with a goal; like a big goal to make the Super Six for the first time in 20 years, at least,” Ast said.
“This team hasn’t been to the final day of nationals almost ever.
And we’re hosting the national championships this year, so we came in with a goal to make it.
“It’s on our home court. It’s in the Liacouras Center. And we want to be there every day of the competition.”
The team is top heavy with seniors, and all are aware that for most of them, this is the last shot that they will have to accomplish this goal.
That is why it is especially tough for senior Theodore Maes.
Throughout the past two seasons, Maes has been a strong competitor and a big gun for the Owls.
Maes was an ECAC medallist on the vault last season.
Maes also earned a season-best 9.4 in vaults against Navy, as well as 9.15 in floor exercises against Army, and an 8.825 on horizontal bars against James Madison.
Unfortunately, Maes will unlikely see any more action this year.
In November, Maes suffered a season ending ankle injury.
This happened one day before Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb suffered a similar, but less severe, break.
“This year I was doing all these thing that I never thought I could do,” Maes said.
“I was on the trampoline one day, and I was doing a new trick I just learned. I thought I came down fine, though everything was legit. And, next thing I knew, I broke my ankle.
“I had just put on a song in the CD player. And right while I was doing the trick, one of the lines in the song was, ‘Dear Lord you show me the best of times, and you showed me the worst of times.’
So that was the worst of times. But that’s all over with now, and now I’m on the road to recovery.”
“I feel really bad. Theo was looking so good on two events [floor exercise, and vault].
I figured he’d be an NCAA finalist on those two events,” coach Fred Turoff said.
“Then he broke his ankle in November, and it wasn’t an easy thing because he needed some screws put in.
Sadly, he’ll miss this year, but he’ll get a chance next year to make up for this year.”
Maes has one year of eligibility left.
Although winning the NCAA championship would be great, senior Alex Weber, the team’s pommel horse specialist and all-around medallist in the ECAC’s, is also aiming to obtain some individual accolades.
“My personal goal is to be an All-American in the all-around – all six events – which means you have to be in the top six in the nation,” Weber said.
“And I’d like to make finals in pommel horse and be an All-American in pommel horse.”
Weber is one of nine seniors on the Owls roster this season. The team will also welcome three freshmen to the squad that captured last years’ ECAC championship.
The Owls will compete again at home this Sunday against James Madison.
However, before they can even think about the NCAA’s in April, the Owls will face stiff competition in February from top-ranked Penn State, No. 3 Illinois and rival William & Mary.
Calvin Gorrell can be reached at Cgorrell@temple.edu