Gymnastics team finding rhythm late in season

The team has four meets before the conference championship meet.

Freshman all-around Aya Mahgoub practices on the uneven parallel bars at a recent practice in Pearson Hall. | MARGO REED TTN

The gymnastics team’s competition on Friday, Feb. 12 had a different feel to it.

Around 6:30 p.m. the team was set to begin its quad meet at the Navy Pier Convention Center in downtown Chicago, the host of the 2016 IGI Chicago Style competition.

Inside the center is a 170,000-square-foot competition arena, surrounded by 50 acres of parks, promenades, shops, entertainment and restaurants.

With the six-gym center being almost 70 miles from Northern Illinois University’s campus, coach Umme Salim-Beasley said she felt the meet was a neutral setting for all teams involved.

“There wasn’t really a home team,” Salim-Beasley said. “It wasn’t technically hosted by any university, so it was kind of like a tournament. It was a fun format, I guess you could say, not the typical crowd. It was kind of a level playing field for all four teams involved.”

Along with the bigger atmosphere, gym size and different equipment, the Owls had to acclimate to the larger venue.

Since no university was hosting the tournament, more members of the general public came out to watch the competition.

“It was just a whole different crowd,” senior Danielle Vahala said. “We normally don’t have that many [people] that come to meets.”

At the meet, Temple set its season high with a score of 192.325, its highest team score since Feb. 7, 2015 when the Owls posted a score 192.15 against the University of Pennsylvania.

The team also posted a season-high score in vault with a 48.225, with freshman Aya Mahgoub posting a 9.725 and junior Briana Odom posting a 9.7. Odom also earned a career high on floor with a 9.85.

Prior to the event in Chicago, the Owls hosted their first home meet this season at McGonigle Hall, the Ken Anderson Memorial Invitational on Feb. 6. Those invited included Ursinus College, the College of William & Mary, West Chester University and Southern Connecticut State University.

Salim-Beasley said the meet was a positive learning experience for the team after being on the road for the first five competitions of the season.

“Something we took from that meet was to focus our energy levels,” Salim-Beasley said. “When you start on vault and floor those are events where you want the energy to be really, really high because you need a lot of power. We just needed to be able to calm down the energy, and we weren’t able to do that.”

Senior Michaela Lapent earned a 9.325 in vault and a 9.4 in floor at the Ken Anderson Memorial Invitational.

Lapent said there were little mistakes here and there, but the team still held its own during the competition.

“I definitely think it’s moments like that, where we have little hiccups and things happen that we can rely on each other to push us through,” Lapent said. “We really wanted to put on a good performance for our home crowd, and I think we did that.”

As a team at the invitational, the Owls finished second overall with a score of 191.175, just behind the overall champion, William & Mary, which earned a 191.375.

With four more meets before the March 19 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championships, the Owls look to improve their performance, as the team is 1-2 in head-to-head meets and has not won any of its four dual meets.

“Really we’ve just been practicing run-throughs and pressure sets to give ourselves those nerves to be able to do better,” Lapent said. “As the season winds down our goal is to ultimately win ECAC’s. We try to focus more on the ups. We know our team and we know how we hit in practice, and we just hope to do the same thing at the competitions.”

Daniel Newhart can be reached at

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