With the team portion of the NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships coming to an end last Saturday, the Owls sole hope of not being a complete washout as a host laid on the well-muscled shoulders of Nayika White and his performance in the Individual Rings Finals.
With his headphones on, White bounced from side to side of the Liacouras Center floor awaiting his turn.
His song of choice, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. He’s been using the songs’ inspirational lyrics to focus himself all year, and now, losing himself in the moment was as crucial as ever.
He had been criticized before for not watching others’ performances before his own, but White has his own opinion on the matter.
“This is my job. You wouldn’t be watching everybody else if you were on your job,” he said. “I pay attention to my job.
“When I’m finished, then I can watch everybody else.”
Sandwiched between two of the best on still rings, seniors’ Marshall Erwin of Stanford and Kevin Tan of Penn State, White performed with grace and near flawlessness.
His score, 9.687, was enough to give him a third place finish behind Tan and Irwin and the honor of being named an All-American.
White was as surprised as anyone of capturing the awards.
“Right now, I really can’t put into words how it feels,” an awestruck White said.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time. . .it’s just a culmination of everything.
“I feel amazing.”
White began his gymnastics career at the age of five, and continued throughout his youth and adolescence.
Now, 15 years later, his hard work has finally paid off in the form of one of the most prestigious titles in the NCAA.
“Being ranked nationally is a feeling beyond no other,” White said.
The rest of the Owl’s men’s gymnastics team was on-hand to support White, and let out a roar as he nailed the end of his routine with a perfect landing.
“He did real well under the pressure,” senior co-captain Mike Ast said.
“I’m proud of him and really impressed with how he did.
“We all knew he was that good, he just proves it to himself. We all had faith in him. And it shows that this team is a team on the national level and we can compete against any of these guys.”
Before the NCAA Championships, head coach Fred Turoff was awarded the “Honor Coach Award,” by the College Gymnastics Association (CGA).
The ceremony took place last Thursday night at the NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Banquet in Mitten Hall.
Anyone who has coached for over 25 years and made contributions to the sport can be given this award.
The CGA itself is comprised of current and former collegiate coaches.
“It’s flattering to be honored by your peers that way,” Turoff said.
A few of Turoff’s former teammates and gymnasts were on hand for this event, only now they were the competition.
California coach Barry Weiner is a Temple graduate and former teammate of Turoff’s, while Ohio State coach Miles Avery was a member of Turoff’s first recruiting class.
Both being Philadelpia natives, they looked forward to this homecoming and seeing their old friend receive the Honor Coach Award.
Other events besides the Championships that took place this past weekend were the Alumni Homecoming and the Collegiate Gymnastics Reunion, which was open to anyone who ever competed collegiately in gymnastics.
About 200 former gymnasts joined Turoff to watch old gymnastic videos and reminisce.
Turoff believed the weekend as a whole was a successful event.
“When you’re at a National Championship, there’s always a little added adrenaline,” he said.
“The fact that it was here and I could showcase it for Philadelphia was great.”
Steve Papurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.