The Temple men’s gymnastics team finished the year off in style. At the NCAA qualifying competition in Norman, Okla., last Thursday, the team did well, placing sixth overall with a team score of 204.3, but only the top three teams advanced to the next day for the NCAA championships held the following two days at Norman.
Individuals can advance without their team advancing, and Temple had three athletes move ahead to the preliminaries, which took place last Friday. Those competitors were sophomore Travis Kitchen, junior Theo Maes, and freshman Nyika White.
Kitchen, from St. Louis, participated in the parallel bars and scored an 8.600 to send him into the prelims. On Friday he recorded an 8.400 to finish 31st in the bars.
“I went there not thinking of making it to the finals, the fact that I was able to make it to the next day, I was surprised,” Kitchen said. “When I was up there I hit it (the routine), and felt really good about what I did.”
Maes, from Evanston, Ill., missed a lot of the season due to injury of his back and missed four weeks of training because of the injury. He still bounced back to take the competition in the vault event, scoring a 9.200 to move him ahead to Friday’s competition in which he scored a 9.255, good for 17th overall in the vault.
White, from Williamstown, N.C., dominated the rings, scoring an 8.850 last Thursday. He made a freshman mistake on Friday, holding his strength part a little to short, and scored a 9.255. He just missed making it to the next day by .875 of a point. White finished 13th overall, with the top 12 making it to the next round.
“I didn’t think I was going to make the team this year,” White said. “And to be apart of the NCAA’s was more then I can ever hope for, you did it all for the team.”
“Well, the goal next year (for White) is to win it,” Temple coach Fred Turoff said. “And he has the potential to be in the championship, as long as he smoothes out his performance, it is real nice he did what he did, he came a long way from the first day he walked into the gym.”
Temple finished the season 17-9, and 33-9 including exhibition meets. The Owls captured the Eastern College Athletic Conference championship for the 21st time in school history. They were also ranked 11th in the country going into the NCAA’s.
The team was banged up heading into NCAA qualifying as ECAC all-around champion junior Richie Maguire sprained his wrist and did not compete in either the pommel horse or parallel bars, hurting the team score. Also, junior Alex Weber performed in all events despite having a sprained thumb. This was a huge deficit for the team as both Maguire and Weber advanced to the championship round in 2001.
The team’s coaches also were giving some end of the year hardware for the teams success this year. Turoff was named the ECAC Coach of the Year in his 26th season at Temple. His assistant Tom Gibbs was named national assistant coach of the year. Gibbs, a Temple Alumni, is in his seventh season at Temple.
“Next year’s team will be pretty much the same team,” explained Turoff. “This team has a new goal, we want to retain the ECAC team championship, but we want to make the top six next year.”
The close knit team had a wonderful season and are looking forward to next year’s season, as the NCAA Championships will be held on their home turf, at the Liacouras Center, April 11-13, 2003.
Matt Sitkoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org