Women’s gymnastics claimed its second straight third-place finish in the ECAC Championship.
The women’s gymnastics team gave the home crowd at McGonigle Hall something to cheer for last Saturday, as Temple took home its second consecutive third-place finish in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship.
The Owls, led by senior Nina Oteri and freshman all-arounder Jean Alban, scored a 190.675 and barely finished behind William & Mary’s 190.8. Towson University, the defending ECAC Champion, tallied a 192.725 for another first-place finish.
“With this type of format, going from warm-up gym to competitive gym, the coaches have no idea who’s in first, second, third and so on,” coach Aaron Murphy said. “So, when the final results came out, knowing that we took third again, I was totally thrilled.”
Despite the close finish, the team put on quite a show in front of the fans on Alumni Day.
“It was exciting,” Oteri said. “[The crowd] definitely played into the energy that we felt.”
The Owls began the day on the vault with a team total of 47.95 and ended the first event in second place behind Towson. Alban scored a 9.275, while the team’s other all-arounder, sophomore Kaity Watson, received a 9.725 on her way to a 36.625 all-around score. Junior Katie Canning ended the vault with a 9.775, which was good enough for seventh place.
The uneven parallel bars were the next apparatus for Temple. The team posted a solid 47.05 but fell to fourth place after two events with a 95.0 team total. Watson struggled. She managed just an 8.3, while Alban scored a 9.4. Junior Chelsea Troutman tied for seventh in the event with a 9.675, a team high.
With the pressure mounting and the crowd getting louder, Murphy could do nothing but pace back and forth with a smile on his face.
“[I was] just hoping that they would stay relaxed, that they can stay calm enough to be as consistent as they were all season long,” he said.
Trailing Penn, William & Mary and Towson, the Owls began to mount a comeback on beam. Oteri and Canning led the team and tied for second in the event with a 9.75, as the Owls posted a 47.65 to climb to third place with a 142.65 team total. The team’s all-arounders, Alban and Watson, posted a 9.5 and 9.075, respectively.
With momentum and the crowd on their side, the Owls took the floor in their final event, beginning with Watson’s 9.525. Alban’s fall on her third pass hurt. She posted an 8.775 and finished with a 36.95.
“It was really nerve-wracking for me because I witnessed the ECACs at Yale last year,” Alban said. “As a freshman, I felt really nervous, but I went out there and tried my best.”
Canning was next and posted a 9.725, good enough for a sixth-place finish in the event. Sophomore Corrine Williams posted a meet-best 9.85 on the floor, and Oteri ended the day with a 9.55, which brought the team’s score to 48.025, just short of William & Mary.
“It was a rough ending for the team because we missed it by .125 [points], which is a step out-of-bounds, it was a step on a landing,” Oteri said. “We had three out-of-bounds. That would have put us at 190.0, which would have put us in second.”
For the team’s seniors, Oteri and Danielle Viens, the ECAC Championship proved to be a bittersweet day. Viens was unable to compete one last time. For Oteri, the emotions were almost overwhelming.
“I marched out, and I started crying in march out,” Oteri said. “Oh God, every event, it was just like land it, and you were like, ‘All right, might be your last landing.’ Every time I landed, it was just … it’s rough.”
The past four years, the big wins, tough losses and injuries have been worth it for the seniors.
“Yeah, it really was,” Oteri said. “All the pain, we complain about it. It’s very grueling walking back in the gym every day knowing that your body might die, but it’s still holding on strong.”
The team still has work to do, however, as it prepares for the USA Gymnastics Nationals in Denton, Texas, April 15-17 against seven other teams.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.