The Owls look for leadership from their eight seniors on the squad this season.
The men’s gymnastics team is looking to follow up on last year, and have a successful season this year following the leadership of graduate all-around competitor Blake Collins and senior all-around performer Chris Mooney. Both captains are trying to lead this veteran team to a positive 2012 season.
Collins, a graduate student, is trying to bring together the squad, consisting of one true freshman in Michael Bittner.
Collins said that practice is the key to success for his team.
“You have to lead by example, there’s no surprises in a meet, you practice how you compete and you compete how practice,” Collins said.
“If you do your job in the gym, it translates to the competition. If the younger guys see all of us seniors working hard, hopefully it can lead to good things,” Collins added. “There are very few fairytales in this sport, what you do in the gym leads to what you do in competitions.”
This style of leadership, through example and hard work is bringing together a team that had five first place finishes in 2011. With gymnastics being an individual sport, team success evolves from positive leadership.
Mooney said that even the underclassmen are buying into the team atmosphere being spread by the seniors.
“They’re big team guys,” Mooney said. “Gymnastics is usually an individual sport, but everyone is fulfilling their responsibilities.”
Coach Fred Turoff, 2009 U.S.A. Gymnastics Hall of Fame Inductee, is in his 36th year at the helm of the Owls. With his strong senior class, Turoff said that injuries will be the largest hurdle for this season.
“Right now we’re looking pretty good,” Turoff said. “We have a few nagging injuries keeping some guys off events, but nothing major. Overall we’re looking very good for this time of the year.”
Mooney followed suit with his coach saying that injury prevention was a major goal in offseason training.
“First and foremost is injuries, we need to stay healthy the whole season,” Mooney said. “We did a lot of strength and conditioning, and flexibility in the offseason to prevent that nagging injuries that could set us back at the beginning of the season.”
With injury prevention and training being a focus of both team captains, one gymnast that could benefit greatly from an injury-free season would be senior all-around performer Adam Al-Rokh.
After having two first place finishes last year and being invited the 2012 Winter Cup this year, the Bensalem native is likely to have another positive year.
“Al-Rokh has had some injury problems throughout his career, but right now he’s in pretty good shape,” Turoff said. “But hopefully Al-Rokh has a good season. He does hard stuff everywhere.”
With meets and events right around the corner for the Owls, they will be looking toward the leadership of Collins and Mooney to guide the team.
Senior floor event, rings and vault competitor Evan Burke said he wants to see the team live up to their capabilities.
“The main thing I’d like to see is everyone performing the way that they have been in the gym,” Burke said.
“We’re in a better place right now than we have been in the past, this is the most consistent team that I have been a part of in my four years,” Burke added.
Colin Tansits can be reached at email@example.com.