Seeking a return to the top

After finishing in fourth place in the Eastern College Athletic Conference last year, the men’s gymnastics team aims for another championship.

After finishing in fourth place in the Eastern College Athletic Conference last year, the men’s gymnastics team aims for another championship.

Coming off its first non-championship season in three years, the men’s gymnastics team looks to get back to the top of the Eastern College Athletic Conference following a disappointing fourth-place finish in 2009.

Fred Turoff, who enters his 34th season as coach, leads a squad of 15 returning letterwinners and welcomes seven newcomers to the 2010 team. Turoff, who was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in August, will rely on his senior class.

The senior class features two graduating seniors and three who will return next season for a fifth year of education. Patrick McLaughlin, a Shrewsbury, Pa., native, is coming off an all-around third-place finish at the ECAC Championships a season ago, despite pulling an abdominal muscle two weeks before the event. Tyler Croteau will compete on the parallel bars, pommel horse and floor exercise.

The three returning seniors – Chris Bizub, Scott Bloomfield and Jesse Kitzen-Abelson – provide Turoff with flexibility. Bizub competes in the vault, parallel bars and floor exercise routines. Bloomfield was an ECAC vault champion in 2008. Kitzen-Abelson provides depth on the pommel horse, parallel bars and horizontal bar events.

The Temple News reported in October that Kitzen-Abelson was the third male gymnast to contract a staph infection in the past two-and-a-half years due to the poor cleanliness of the gym. A year ago, Bloomfield contracted a staph infection that required knee surgery.

The junior class consists of five competitors. Blake Collins, Logan Fiery, Dan Pizzuta and Evan Shepard are all strong all-arounders. Jeff Zack will compete in the vault, rings and horizontal bar. The team will be without Adam Al-Rokh, who will miss the season following shoulder surgery.

Chris Mooney leads a sophomore class that contributed well as rookies a season ago. Mooney earned medals in the rings and vault events at last year’s ECACs, while Matt Martin will look to contribute in several events. Evan Burke will compete in the floor exercise and vault. Taylor Brana will participate in the rings, parallel bars and horizontal bar events.

The Cherry and White will welcome several freshmen to the team. Two athletes were finalists in the Junior Olympic Championships last year. Alex Tighe placed fourth in the horizontal bar, and Allan Malone also finished fourth in the floor exercise. Assaf Zoor will contribute in many events, including the rings. Brett Statman, Zach Aguiar, John Gaffney and Dashiell Sears will all try to break into the lineup as well sometime this season.

The team will spend the majority of its season away from North Philadelphia, as McGonigle Hall will host only two events this year. The Owls will host defending ECAC Champion Illinois-Chicago and club team State University of New York-Brockport Jan. 31. The meet will be the Owls’ annual Homecoming event and is scheduled for 1 p.m. Temple’s second meet will be held Feb. 13 in the seniors’ home finale against Springfield.

The ECAC Championships take place April 2 and 3 at William & Mary. The NCAA Championships will be held at West Point April 15 to 17.

Joe Serpico can be reached at gserpico@temple.edu.

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