Coming off a second place finish at the conference championships last week, the Owls prepare to send their strongest competitors to the NCAA individual qualifying round on Thursday. The Owls, who narrowly missed the No. 12 qualifying spot at the conference meet, will send seven gymnasts to compete at West Point.
Two-time all-American Nyika White qualified to compete on rings and vault. White is currently ranked first overall in the country on rings with an average score of 9.775.
“I wish the team could be there [at the NCAAs], but I’m feeling really good about this competition,” White said. “This is the first time that I’ve ever been ranked first.”
Senior David Ramos, a key contributor for the Owls this season, will compete in the all-around competition.
Freshman Luke Vexler will join Ramos in all-around. Vexler, who earned fifth in the all-around at the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships, said he is confident in how he is going to perform.
“It’s an honor to be competing for Temple,” Vexler said. “I’m just going to go into the meet expecting myself to perform the way that I’ve been performing all year. I just need to hit my routines and do the best that I can.”
Vexler said one of his personal goals for this meet is to beat Eric Novick of Illinois-Chicago. Novick won the all-around title at the ECACs with a score of 52.450; Vexler had a 51.975.
Freshman Sterling Kramer qualified for all three events in which he competed this season. Kramer will compete on pommel horse, parallel bars, and high bars.
Sophomore Derek Shepard will compete on vault, and junior Brian Forquer will join White on rings.
Junior Dan Berlin said he is set to compete on pommel horse, and was happy just to be invited.
“I’m competing for the team and for myself,” Berlin said. “Since this is my first time going, I’m just hoping for the best.”
Coach Fred Turoff said he was disappointed the Owls will not compete as a team, but has confidence in the seven gymnasts that qualified.
“It’s nice that some of the guys have another chance to compete, and there is a chance for several of them to move on to the championship round on Friday,” Turoff said. “Nyika, right now, having the highest average in the country on rings, is a favorite and it would be hard for him not to advance.”
The top three all-around competitors and the top three individuals on each event in the qualifiers advance to the finals on Friday and Saturday.
Despite the absence of their teammates in the competition, the gymnasts are anxious to compete in this week’s events.
“I just want to win [individually] and give the school a good name,” White said. “It’s my last year, and it would be nice to leave with an NCAA title.”
Melissa DiPento can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.