Owls win Ken Anderson Memorial Invite

The women’s gymnastics defended their home floor at McGonigle Hall on Saturday, winning the sixth annual Ken Anderson Memorial Invite. Posting a score of 191.15, the Owls narrowly edged out Cornell, which finished as runners-up with a score of 191.025. Penn followed in third (188.35), West Chester in fourth (187.125) and Ursinus in fifth (184.225).

The key to Temple’s victory came in a vast improvement in the floor exercise, an event that has just cost them last week in Alaska. Led by senior Jasmine Johnson, who scored a 9.800 in the event, Temple posted a team score of 48.45, their best event of the meet. Production was solid across the board, as all five gymnasts scored at least a 9.600.

“My assistant coach, Deirdre, and myself spent a lot of time coming back from Alaska thinking, ‘How are we going to get this floor team together?’” coach Aaron Murphy said. “Because Temple is known for floor exercise. So we really pushed them in the gym in practice this week. We threw assignments at them that weren’t thrown at them in my eight years as a head coach. So they were able to achieve those assignments, which paid off in the end.”

“For floor we definitely just built confidence, and also built endurance in the gym,” senior Jean Alban said. “We had a couple of assignments where we had to push through the floor routine, with a couple passes before it, just to build endurance. So I really think it boosted our confidence, knowing we can hit our routines tired.”

Another strong event for the Owls was on the balance beam. Temple was again consistent across the board as all five gymnasts posted a score above 9.500. Led by Sylvie Borschel and Alexis Arena, who tied for the best score for the Owls with 9.675, Temple posted a team score of 48.125 on the beam.

The next highest event for the Owls was the uneven bars, as they posted a team score of 47.350. Temple was led in this event by senior co-captain Heather Zaniewski, who posted a score of 9.700, all thanks to a particular routine.

“I actually had surgery in August, so today was the first day I did the lat routine from last year before my surgery,” Zaniewski said. “So it’s a higher difficulty routine that I did today.”

Murphy said Zaniewski and Alban’s performances show why the two are co-captains.

“[Alban] being a fifth-year senior and oldest on the team, just coming out here and nailing what she has to do, which is hitting her events, which shows great leadership,” Alban said. “And then you got Heather, who follows up right behind her, throwing up a 9.7 on the uneven bars, that’s huge.”

Rounding out the Owls’ total team score was their performance on vault. Led again by Jasmine Johnson with a score of 9.55, Temple posted a team score of 47.225.

Today’s meet marks the only home meet of the season until the ECAC conference championships in March. Zaniewski and Alban explained the importance of protecting their home floor.

“It’s really important,” Zaniewski said. “This is the first time we’ve done it in a couple of years, and it being my senior meet it means even more.”

“We haven’t hit all our routines in the last few meets,” Alban added. “But today was what Temple gymnastics can really do, and we proved it.”

Even with the success, coach Murphy doesn’t want his team to become overconfident.

“I want them to understand that this was a great day, don’t get me wrong, but we can get better from here on out,” he said. “I’m hoping we can learn from our success, and go into the next meets beating these scores that we just did.”

Up next for Temple is a quad-meet at the University of Pennsylvania with Brockport and SUNY Cortland on Saturday.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steven.bohnel@temple.edu or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.

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