Two-time all-American. Winner of the 2005 conference title on rings. Co-captain of the men’s gymnastics team.
Nyika White has earned many accolades in his years as Temple gymnast, but to him, the most rewarding aspect was the sport itself. He has seen how he and his teammates have changed for the better in the four years he has been here.
“Having underclassmen coming underneath you and watching them grow and mature, the entire growing process, is one of the most rewarding things ever,” White said.
White completed his four years of eligibility with a 10th-place finish on rings at the NCAA Championships earlier this month, but he will compete in a few non-NCAA events next season as an alumnus.
“After you’ve done something like this for this many years, you just can’t stop. It’s in your blood,” White said.
Although his passion for the sport has remained strong, White admitted these past four years have not always been easy. He often devoted much of his time and energy to gymnastics at the expense of free time, but said it was worth it just to get to compete with his teammates.
“At times it was really challenging and it almost got to the point where it was a hassle,” White said. “It’s sort of a trade-off though. You have those moments, but then you realize that you just wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Assistant coach Tom Gibbs had the biggest impact on White’s decision to stick with gymnastics when White considered quitting the team earlier in his career.
“There were so many times when I got frustrated and I really didn’t want to work at it anymore,” White said. “Tom would sit me down and just say, ‘No, you need to do this.'”
But nothing Gibbs said had more of an impact than the ovation White received as he was preparing to compete in the NCAA Championships this year.
“When I stepped up for my routine, the entire arena was loud. I received so much support from different teams around the country, fans, spectators, my entire team, and even some alumni,” White said.
Before that resounding show of support, White said his biggest motivators were his teammates.
“Last week at a meeting, Nadov [Simenaur] said that we are 24 guys chosen to represent 30,000 students at Temple,” White said. “If that’s not something to be proud of, then we don’t have anything to be proud of.”
Heading into the NCAAs, White was ranked first nationally on rings with a 9.775 average. As a sophomore, he finished third on rings at the NCAAs and placed second as a junior last year. White also claimed the Eastern College Athletic Conference-Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League title on rings this year as well as in 2003.
White, who was elected by his peers as co-captain at the beginning of the season, said he enjoys the responsibility that comes with being a leader.
“I’ve always been told that I would be in a leadership position and that I would one day have others looking up to me. I see that now and I’m really thankful because now there is more pressure on me to be a good role model and a better individual.”
Simenaur, a junior, agreed that White was a positive force on the team.
“He loves this team,” Simenaur said. “He has so much heart and determination and it’s [great] for everyone else on this team to see and feel.”
There is a unique camaraderie on this team, White said, that drives the Owls to succeed.
“Just seeing all the time that we put into gymnastics, it really makes a tight-knit group,” White said. “When the time comes, I truly am going to miss these guys.”
Despite the competitions ahead, White said he will miss the feeling of college meets.
“I wish I had a couple more years of NCAA competition left in me, but it’s just one of those things that you have to let go,” he said. “When I look back, I’ll think, yeah, that was an amazing time in my life.”
At the end of four years, coach Fred Turoff said White has truly been an inspiration to the team.
“When he came in, I had no idea he was going to get as good as he did,” Turoff said. “It’s been a pleasure. He’s a hard worker, a good leader, and a true sportsman.”
Melissa DiPento can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.