Picture this: Late at night, in a rural Midwestern town, a veteran coach leads home his disheartened team that is weary from competition.
It made for the perfect ending to a film, not the men’s gymnastics team’s season.
The Owls rounded out their season in Norman, Okla. for a shot at the NCAA Championship. But some rough performances by the Owls’ top performers ended their postseason late Thursday night.
To make matters worse, the Owls almost missed their chance at dinner, after being eliminated from the 12-team field in Norman.
“We’re used to Philadelphia, where there are places open around the hotel,” Turoff said, “but being out here in Oklahoma, everything was closed except that Applebee’s.”
The entire team advanced to the NCAA qualifying round based on their performance at the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship in Annapolis, Md. in March.
The top 12 ECAC teams advanced to the NCAA qualifying round, where scores were determined by a single scoring average based on their top 3 season scores and double their ECAC championship score.
While in Annapolis, Temple finished third with a 203.180 score at the ECAC championship, boosting its overall score and securing the NCAA’s 12th and final berth.
The Owls entered the NCAA Championship in the last slot and left in the same position. Sophomore Sterling Kramer was the only Temple performer to advance, and it was due to a late withdrawal. One of the original qualifiers for the horizontal bars suffered an injury during warm-ups and was forced to exit competition, giving Kramer and the Owls new life in the Tournament.
“[Kramer] has been competing with a back problem,” Turoff said.
Kramer’s teammate, sophomore Luke Vexler, competed with a sore hand.
Kramer was informed of the withdrawal with just 10 minutes left in Friday’s warm-ups. He did a cold set on horizontal bar and performed well, scoring a 7.750. This score was not enough to carry Kramer into Saturday night’s event final, however it was one of the more memorable performances of the Championship.
In team competition, the host Oklahoma Sooners, Illinois and California advanced from the Owls’ group.
“We just have to go back and work on our confidence,” Turoff said. “The guys know that they can make it and [the NCAA Tournament] is somewhere they want to be next year.”
All but fifth-year senior Abraham Kletzel will return next year.
After their exit from the tournament, Turoff and the Owls remained in Oklahoma as observers.
“I let them sleep in,” the coach said. “Now we can relax and think about next year.”
Oklahoma’s Justin Horton finished first on floor exercise and rings, and Illinois’ Justin Spring topped both bar events. California and Stanford took home top honors on pommel horse and vault.
Turoff said a few of his team’s top performers will be in training this summer for a spot with the United States Gymnastics team. The coach, however, did not provide specifics.
Danielle K. Milner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.