After a loss to No. 3 Illinois in its previous meet, the men’s gymnastics team came out strong in a quad meet last weekend at McGonigle Hall. Although the Owls finished second behind fourth-ranked Stanford, they lost by only 13.75 team points, 211.750-198.000. Springfield placed third at the meet, with 175.75 total points, and M.I.T. placed last with 175.450.
The Owls were led by their two star sophomores, Luke Vexler and Sterling Kramer, who respectively rank 7th and 13th in the nation in all-around. At Saturday’s meet, Vexler placed third on all-around with a total of 50.000, and Kramer placed fourth with 48.050.
Still, this was not enough to top Stanford’s David Sender, the nation’s second-ranked all-around gymnast. Sender won five of six team events on his way to winning all-around with a total score of 52.100.
But Vexler and Kramer have enjoyed much success this season, placing second and third in all-around, respectively, against the nationally-ranked Illini.
At West Point earlier this season, Vexler claimed the all-around title and won floor exercise. The 5-foot-6-inch, 140-pound native of Amherst, Mass., also won the floor title against William & Mary while Kramer shared a pommel horse win with freshman John Vogtman. In the first meet of the season, Kramer took second on horizontal bars and third on rings.
Stats aside, Vexler has also been honored as last season’s Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year. Even with their personal success, the Owls have struggled as a team. Though they are ranked 15th nationally, the Owls are 7-6.
But the sophomore pair has grown used to disappointments. Earlier this season the 5-10, 175-pound Kramer was the Owls’ only representative in Las Vegas, at the Winter Cup Challenge.
The tournament’s top six finishers automatically qualified for the 2006 Senior National Team. Kramer, of Garwood, N.J., missed the tournament’s final 42-man cut by just one point with an overall score of 76.800.
“[In gymnastics] there’s so much involved. It’s what sets us apart from other sports,” Kramer said. “You don’t get to shoot the ball twice. No. Everything builds up to that one moment. If you don’t hit … you just push yourself harder, realizing how close you came.”
Vexler agreed with his teammate, but he cited additional concerns with next month’s ECAC Championship.
“All locales are different. The bounce of the floor, the intensity of the fans,” he said. “But we are concerned with the short-term [goals]. With the ECAC Cup, we keep pushing each other to hit each element and win each event.”
While sitting out last season with an injury, Kramer pushed himself. He said he was motivated by watching Vexler receive the ECAC Rookie of the Year award.
“Yeah, I was jealous,” Kramer said. “But no one deserved it more [than Vexler]. No one hits in the clutch like him. And it just made me work that much harder to get back.”
So what do the sophomores want next? Vexler kept it simple.
“We just [want] more support – from Temple students and administration,” Vexler said.
Vogtman finished behind Vexler at Saturday’s quad meet to place second on pommel horse with a score of 8.350. Vogtman also led the Owls on rings with a score of 8.300 and a sixth-place finish.
Kramer was close behind for the Owls, receiving a score of 8.250 on rings. On parallel bars Vogtman was only 0.25 behind Kramer’s third-place score of 8.500.
Vexler placed second overall on floor exercise with a 9.200 total, and a fifth-place finish on horizontal bar.
Among Temple gymnasts, both Vexler and Kramer shared second place on vault behind sophomore Alex Gorski, who finished second overall at the meet with a score of 9.000.
On high bar, freshman Jason Russo scored an 8.000, which placed him just behind Vexler’s 8.100. The Owls’ next meet is this Saturday at the Pacific Coast Classic in Oakland, Calif.
Andrew Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.