With a third-place ranking in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League and an average of 194.900 points per meet, Temple University women’s gymnastics (6-3, 2-2, the EAGL) has gotten off to a strong start in the 2022 season.
“They’re doing what I expected,” said head coach John Nilson. “I do think that they are going to surprise a lot of people, but I don’t think I’ll be one of the people that are surprised. I had really high expectations for this team, this is the best team that Temple’s ever had.”
With a full preseason and new depth added to this year’s roster, the Owls prioritized putting up higher numbers across every event, but more so on beam and vault, which has been the team’s biggest strength this season.
The roster is deep and competitive. On the first day of practice the Owls put goals, like competing in nationals together, on a board in their practice facility. From that moment, everyone made it a priority to accomplish what they wrote, Nilson said.
The team is working on the little things, like improving their form on handstands and sticking their dismounts off the vault or beam. Nilson believes the Owls have been more consistent and energized in perfecting their form this season, he said.
The Owls also spent more time in the gym this offseason to condition and work on different routines that use different skills. Nilson had the group focus on floor conditioning for endurance, because it can strengthen the team in every event, he added.
“The healthy level of competition was there this year,” Nilson said. “Right from the first day the freshmen walk in the gym. We didn’t really have a lot of that last year because we didn’t have the depth.”
Sitting with a 6-3 record just five meets into the season, the Owls have managed to come together and hit their stride earlier than in previous years, senior all-around competitor Ariana Castrence said.
Last season, the team struggled at the start of the season and did not record its first win until their eighth meet against Long Island University (3-7, 0-4, the East Atlantic), possibly because of the shortened preseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year, we’ve actually been able to have a steady preseason,” Castrence said. “Everything was just so unknown and inconsistent, it was just a lot of things going on at once that prevented us from getting together and being able to really feel strong and have our foundation set.”
Temple opened the season with a win against the University of Pennsylvania (4-4, 1-0, Gymnastics East Conference) and a loss against No. 29 Pennsylvania State University (1-3, 0-3, BIG 10 Conference) on Jan. 7.
Despite earning a victory, Temple’s final score of 193.450 was the team’s lowest overall score of the season so far.
“I was certainly quite nervous,” said freshman all-around competitor Hannah Stallings. “We worked through that, but I still was proud of what we did at the first meet, and I think we’ve, since the first meet even, improved on that so much.”
As a team, the gymnasts are adamant about not looking at scores, because they believe if they do what they’re supposed to do, it will show in the results, said senior all-around competitor Julianna Roland.
On vault, Temple tied a program record with a season-high score of 49.150. Roland and Stallings have posted the highest scores on the event this season with 9.900.
Stallings has become a key competitor in her first season on North Broad. She won the all-around in four consecutive meets and on Jan. 30. Her score of 39.250 against Long Island University tied the fifth-highest total in program history.
She was also named EAGL Co-Gymnast of the Week on Jan. 26, for setting a career-high score in the all-around with a 39.275. Stallings recorded her first 9.900 on vault, which tied a program record, while posting a 9.800 or higher on the other three events against New Hampshire and Penn.
“She’s been very consistent,” Nilson said. “Once I get [Castrence] back in the all-around, those two will battle it out which will be great.”
At the tri-meet at New Hampshire on Jan. 23, the team took on the University of Pennsylvania for the second time and the University of New Hampshire (5-4, 2-2 EAGL), where they scored their season-high overall score of 195.835.
Temple also set their season high at the meet, scoring 49.050 on the beam. Castrence and Roland recorded a team-high score of 9.875 on the event.
“My strongest event would be beam currently,” said senior all-around competitor Julianna Roland. “It comes a lot from like the numbers that I put in and also I feel like I’ve been reworking the mental aspect of it too, to be stronger in that, not just physically.”
Temple hopes to maintain their momentum as they travel to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to face the University of North Carolina (7-5, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) on Feb. 12 at 5:30 p.m.