The men’s gymnastics team won five of eight meets this season.
Gearing up for the Eastern College Athletic Conference championships on April 4, men’s gymnastics is fighting to pose a threat to the competition and send off the seniors with pride.
So far, the season has been solid for the team, which currently holds the No. 11 spot in the national rankings and have placed first in five of its eight meets this year. If the Owls are victorious in the ECAC, they will move on to the NCAA Tournament on April 14, at Ohio State.
Temple will once again face the University of Chicago-Illinois Maroons, which has defeated the team at the ECAC the past two years.
Determined not to repeat the trend, coach Fred Turoff and the team are training hard to make up for a poor performance against Chicago earlier in the season.
However, a number of injuries have accumulated throughout the season in some of the team’s key athletes, only adding frustration and stress in regards to the anticipated meets.
“Overall, we gave our best performance in the first tournament of the season,” Turoff said. “We just haven’t had a full team since then.”
Senior Scott Bloomfield is out for the remainder of the year with a torn kneecap, and senior Patrick McLaughlin entered the game still recovering from a dislocated ankle sustained last year, which has hindered his ability to perform on the floor. Senior Jesse Kitzen-Abelson broke a bone in his hand before the start of the new year, which put him out for seven weeks.
“It’s disappointing with the injuries, but hopefully enough guys heal up,” Turoff said. “If we get our highest scores of the season, it will make it all worthwhile.”
As a team, Turoff said he is proud of the Owls’ performance in their home meet last year against UIC, where they earned a score of 343, collectively.
In his 35 years as the coach of the team, Turoff recognized that this season has been rather worse for the wear in terms of athlete health. However, the Owls are not entirely dependent on the health of their most experienced members. A number of younger gymnasts have stepped up where needed, such as Zachary Aguiar, a sophomore transfer from Lowell, Mass.
“He has been performing really well, doing three events and just got ECAC Rookie of the Week last weekend,” Kitzen-Abelson said.
Promise has also been seen in sophomore Brett Statman and junior Chris Mooney, who will play significant roles in the upcoming meet.
Looking back on the season thus far, this year’s graduating seniors have plenty of memories to reminisce about, and not all of them have to do with sprains and broken bones. The three veterans differ in terms of their personal strengths in the arena.
Last year, Kitzen-Abelson was the Owls’ No. 1 gymnast in the event, winning five first-place spots, and leading the team to its second place finish in the event in the ECAC last year.
Bloomfield would have given the competition a reason to worry had his injury not benched him, as he entered the season as the ECAC defending vault champion, even qualifying for the United States Championships over the past summer.
McLaughlin has been on the team five years running and has established his high ranking in the conference with a three-score average of 14.600 on parallel bars and 14.467 on high bar. The Philadelphia Inquirer named him the 2009-10 Academic All-Area Men’s At-Large Performer of the Year.
All three men said they are looking forward to Chicago.
“We’re going to win ECAC,” McLaughlin said. “We’re capable of doing that.”
Elizabeth Sim can be reached at email@example.com.