The nation’s top college athletes will be converging on Temple’s campus this weekend for the NCAA Men’s Gymnastic Championships.
An array of dazzling gymnasts from the likes of Oklahoma, Penn State, California and Temple will showcase their talents at the Liacouras Center this Friday for qualifying.
The top six qualifiers will compete for the team title on Saturday.
With such stiff competition like defending national champion Oklahoma, the Owls know they will be in for a steep challenge.
“We have been working on all the little stuff this past week to reach our goal and compete with these great teams,” co-captain Mike Ast said.
“We’ve got to be 100 percent on each event to reach our goal of finishing in the top six.
If we are as good as we can be and these other teams are as good as they can be it is going to be a great competition.”
Temple will have the upper hand on many of their competitors due to the fact that they are competing on their home floor.
The last two NCAA Champions (Oklahoma and Ohio State) also hosted the tournament.
Senior co-captain Alex Weber knows the home crowd will be a decisive factor.
“Being at home will be an amazing boost. For the seven seniors not returning next year this will be the final show,” Weber said.
At the ECAC Championships, the Owls got off to a slow start on parallel bars and high bar.
Rings, vault and pommel horse have consistently been the strongest events for Temple.
Ast knows that performing better on parallel bars and high bar will be a large focus for nationals.
“We have to be consistent on parallel bars and high bar because those are the events we messed up at ECACs,” he said.
“We need to be clean on those two events and do what we did on rings, vault and pommel horse at the last meet.
We are not going to be able to miss at all and we need to have good landings on floor exercise as well.”
Temple’s gymnastics program does not have the same type of funding that programs like Oklahoma and Michigan enjoy.
Those teams and the other eight programs participating at nationals have had Olympians and large budgets at their disposal.
These factors have the Owls setting reasonable goals.
Head coach Fred Turoff says his team has some obvious disadvantages but their goal is still to finish in the top six.
“Oklahoma and Penn State consistently score in the 220s as a team,” he said.
“They are better teams than we are but they also have more financial support than we do at Temple.
We are coming up on some heavy opposition at nationals and we have reasonable expectations.
If we clean up our errors at ECACs and if we make our easier routines cleaner to cut down on point deductions, we will maximize our scores.
This will be the focus of our training leading up to Nationals.”
The Owls will be filling the David role in a field full of Goliaths.
Although they will host the National Championships, their backs will still be against the wall due to the quality of competition that awaits them.
As Weber states, being the underdog can play into your favor at times.
“Our program doesn’t have the funding like these other teams,” Weber said.
“We aren’t in the same bracket as a Penn State or Oklahoma.
They have something that we don’t have but what we have we make really great.
You always have an advantage when you’re the underdog in my opinion and going into a competition like this, you can only rise.”
The Owls are sure to bring their A-game to the meet and will try to compensate for their disadvantages with an overwhelming amount of heart and determination.
Doug Saylor can be reached at Dgsylr@temple.edu.