The men’s gymnastics team wanted first place. In search of a third straight Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship, and a trip to the NCAA Championships as a team, the Owls came up short.
A sub-par third place finish at the ECAC Championships in Chicago left them on the outside looking in. The eight Temple gymnasts selected to compete as individuals were left to recover from the team’s disappointment in losing the conference title.
“It’s really, really hard, for me especially, since every year I’ve gone to the NCAAs I’ve had the team there with me,” said junior Nyika White, who last year earned all-American honors on rings. White will again be among the 42 top gymnasts in the nation, competing at the National Championships this year in Chicago.
“It’s gonna be kind of hard looking around and instead of finding the team, it’ll be other people cheering,” he said. “I’ll want to cheer [my teammates] on, but they’re not all going to be there.”
White is the Owls’ foremost candidate to medal at Nationals, having finished third overall on rings in 2003. Other potential medalists for Temple include senior Toros Torcomian on rings and junior Jose Ramos on floor exercise, pommel horse, parallel bars and horizontal bar.
Seniors John Behrle, Kevin Hallinan, Zach Hanson-Hart and Theo Maes, as well as freshman Alex Gorski round out the eight-gymnast contingent that will compete.
“I’m just looking to go out there and give Temple a good name, give it good representation and cheer on the other guys who have better chances at medals than me,” said Hallinan, a former walk-on who will be competing in his final meet for Temple.
Torcomian, who hopes to medal on rings in what will also be his last meet as an Owl, spent most of the week directing and encouraging teammates while preparing himself for competition.
“There’s not going to be as much pressure,” Torcomian said. “I mean, there will be pressure to do well because I want to do well for myself, but there’s always an added pressure to do well for your team and that’s not going to be there this time. There will be pressure to just do well for the guys, but it’s not going to be for a team score.”
The Owls’ chances at winning the conference title were doomed after a series of poor performances on the pommel horse at the ECAC Championships. Strong in all other events throughout the season, the team had clung to the hope that its shaky performances on pommel horse would improve. When they did not, Temple’s chances of defending its title became nominal. But they are looking to bounce back this weekend.
By the time the team departed for Chicago on Wednesday, the majority of the gymnasts had managed to put the memory of their unsuccessful defense of the ECAC title behind them. The excitement of the upcoming meet proved enough for them to refocus representing their school and themselves.
“It feels horrible to lose the Cup,” Torcomian said. “It doesn’t feel good, going to the NCAAs without your team, but it feels good knowing that you were good enough to qualify with the best in the country.”
White was more impassioned.
“I’m so hungry for a championship it’s ridiculous,” he said. “The excitement of being in the finals, just the caliber of gymnastics in general, there’s no better feeling than that. You’ve got great gymnastics all around you, you’ve got the adrenaline rush and the music blasting; you just get in your zone.”
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.