John Vogtman and Nick Iles logged countless hours in the gym last season, just like their teammates on the men’s gymnastics team. Their commitment to the team was apparent, and their desire to compete burned deep.
Unlike their teammates who entered the gym to perfect their routines, Vogtman and Iles came to rehab injuries that cost them their seasons.
While Temple captured its second straight Eastern College Athletic Conference gymnastics title, Vogtman and Iles relentlessly prepared their bodies to make a similar run during the 2009 season, which began last weekend.
Though neither has fully recovered from his injury, both competed at West Point. Vogtman finished third on the pommel horse with a 13.650. Iles performed but didn’t reach the finals. The Owls finished third at the meet.
Though their trials were difficult and their rehabs long, both Vogtman and Iles are stronger because of it. As are the Owls.
Observing from the outside has a tendency of changing an athlete’s perspective. It certainly did for these two seniors, who were chosen as co-captains by their teammates.
“It’s taught me to not take anything for granted and appreciate what you have when you have it,” Vogtman said. “It can all disappear pretty quickly.”
Vogtman and Iles found that out early last season. Iles snapped his Achilles tendon while tumbling during practice last January. Vogtman suffered a similar injury a few weeks later, tearing the ACL in his right knee during the Winter Cup.
“It was definitely different watching from the outside,” Iles said. “Being an observer changes your mindset. It gave me a different excitement and enjoyment of competing.
“When I was watching, it was like, ‘I want to do that, I want to do that.’ It makes you appreciate being in the gym. I was able to watch people. I can see it in their eyes, the determination. I can study how guys compete.”
Determination is a subject Iles and Vogtman want to discuss with the team, which includes several members who haven’t had much experience competing at the collegiate level. At the high school level, gymnasts primarily focus on individual performances.
“You compete for yourself, and that’s what matters,” Vogtman said. “If you mess up, it doesn’t affect anyone but you. It’s a different experience [at the collegiate level], so it takes some time and experience to get used to.”
The co-captains shouldn’t have a hard time grabbing the attention of their younger teammates. Their comeback efforts have earned them respect but have also taught them many valuable lessons in dealing with frustration.
They’ll make sure those lessons are passed along.
“They saw our work ethic in the gym and how we get behind them, even when we can’t perform,” Iles said. “I look at myself when the team starts getting down. It helps me find something to fire them up.”
While Iles and Vogtman understand the determination necessary to be successful, their injuries also taught them to absorb the moment.
“It really made me realize how much I appreciate being on the team and love competing,” Vogtman said. “When you’re in the process [of competing], you sometimes go through the motions. Stepping away just made me realize how much I miss and how grateful I am to be with this group of guys.”
The decorated gymnast said the most rewarding part of this ordeal was “being able to share with these guys what it means to be a college gymnast.”
In Vogtman and Iles, the Owls couldn’t have two better examples.
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.