The men’s gymnastics team got a chance to add to its successful season on the biggest stage last weekend. After claiming the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship two weeks ago – and for the 15th time under coach Fred Turoff – the Owls headed to State College, Pa., to participate in the NCAA Championship meet held at Penn State’s Recreation Hall.
During the qualifying round Friday, the Owls finished last in their six-team bracket and 11th overall with a score of 205.400, but Turoff remained optimistic about the way his team performed.
“We made a few uncharacteristic mistakes,
but overall we had a pretty good showing
for the first day,” Turoff said. A 35.900 total on the floor exercise was the Owls’ highest team score of the day.Senior Clay Stewart led the way in floor exercise with a score of 9.500 while sophomore Jon Vogtman paved the way on pommel horse with an 8.500 tally.
Both Stewart and Vogtman’s marks qualified them to compete in the individual championship on Saturday. Junior Luke Vexler missed qualifying for the next round in all-around by one mere place. Entering the championship round, Stewart
said he possessed the confidence of an experienced veteran and said he was not rattled by having to perform in such a big meet.
“I actually wasn’t nervous at all,” Stewart said. “I felt prepared to do very well in the competition.” The senior tallied a 9.300 in floor exercise routine and finished tied for 25th overall. On pommel horse, Vogtman finished tied for 42nd with a score of 7.450 after making a few mistakes.
“I definitely felt the pressure a little bit,” he said. “I just tried to block it out and treat this like any other meet. It was still a great experience for me and the team.”
In talking about his younger teammate’s performance in the championship round, Stewart offered much praise.
“[Vogtman’s] amazing for being just a sophomore,” Stewart said. “In a couple of years he will be a phenomenal gymnast. He really is a true athlete.”Turoff said that he was surprised that Stewart’s routine was not scored higher, but said he was still proud of his team and its accomplishments.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of here,” Turoff said. “Now we just have to look forward to next season and getting better together.”
Next season is exactly what Vogtman is thinking about after competing against some of the best competition in the country. He said he is excited about the future and will use this experience to prepare for next season, where he hopes to return to the championship.
“My main goal for next year is for the whole team to do better,” Vogtman said. “For myself though, I need to just do my thing, focus on my performance, and not worry about anybody else. I also want to qualify for the all-around competition.”
As a graduating senior, Stewart’s future with the team is not as clear. While he has one more year of eligibility left, the finance major already has a job lined up after graduation. He said his odds of returning were “definitely not 100 percent.”
Andrew Pluta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.