It came down to the wire.
“It was really close up until the very end,” Taylor Brana, a graduate student and co-captain of the men’s gymnastics team, said. “We didn’t know that we won until they announced that William & Mary got second, and then we were all really excited, just absolutely ecstatic.”
For the second time in consecutive years, No. 13 Temple (17-6) won the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship. It is the 18th conference title under coach Fred Turoff’s 37-year reign at the helm of men’s gymnastics.
This year’s ECAC Championship was so close that the top three schools were separated by 2.3 points. University of Illinois-Chicago recorded an overall team score of 409.350, and William and Mary scored a 410.450, but it was Temple’s 411.650 on April 5 that came out victorious. In retaining the ECAC crown, the Owls received an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
But the celebration did not end there.
After the following night’s individual event finals, in which six Temple gymnasts medaled, it was announced that Turoff was named ECAC Coach of the Year and that assistant coach Patrick McLaughlin was named ECAC Assistant of the Year. Also, senior Alex Tighe was named the conference’s Senior Athlete of the Year.
“It was great to see the thrill on everyone’s face,” Brana said with a hoarse voice exhausted from cheering. “We worked really hard this season, and it was just great to feel like all the hard work we put in and all the conflict we had really meant something at the end. There are really no words to describe it. I was going to say excited and ecstatic but that doesn’t fully describe the situation.”
“The [ECAC Championship] was one of the greatest meets that I have been a part of at Temple,” Tighe said. “It literally came down to the last routine, and it was just incredible. Everybody wanted it so bad. And even after the last guy, they took down the team scores from the scoreboard so we didn’t really know who won and we were all standing on the floor and then they announced William & Mary in second place.”
“I teared up and a couple of the other guys did. It was just so much happiness,” Tighe added. “All the hard work and all the passion that came together to get that trophy.”
It was the second ECAC Coach of the Year award for Turoff. Aaron Murphy also won ECAC Coach of the Year for his job with the women’s team.
“It’s a terrific honor, some of the other coaches did an excellent job this year so I didn’t vote for myself in the voting even though I could’ve, because I thought some of the other guys took their team far and to a very high level,” Turoff said. “But I’m flattered that my fellow coaches felt that way.”
“[Turoff’s] our coach,” Brana said. “So we are absolutely supportive of him and what he does, and he does a great job with the program, so does he deserve it? Yes. We’re very excited he got the award and he is deserving of it.”
Turoff however, gave a lot of credit to his award winning assistant, McLaughlin.
“I certainly think that he is deserving of [ECAC Assistant Coach of the Year],” Turoff said. “He works hard with our guys and the results are the championship meet and the fact that we prevailed.”
Capping off the plethora of awards for men’s gymnastics over the weekend was Tighe’s Senior Athlete of the Year Award.
“It’s a nice award and definitely a great honor to be selected by all the coaches that thought that I was the gymnast that produced the best results of the season and had good routines throughout the year, and it’s definitely a nice thing to get,” Tighe said.
“We know he deserves it,” Brana said. “He works really hard in the gym, and he’s a terrific gymnast. He contributes academically, with his gymnastics, with his leadership, and his actions in practice. And he is one of the best in the ECAC so it was a well-deserved award.”
With the ECAC season now complete, men’s gymnastics will look to the NCAA Championships hosted at Penn State University on April 20.
Samuel Matthews can be reached at email@example.com.