Turoff’s team falls short at NCAAs

After winning the ECAC championship the last three years, the Owls didn’t defend that title this year, nor did they send anyone to the NCAA Championships.

Some adversities prove too much to overcome.

The men’s gymnastics team did not defend its Eastern College Athletic Conference title this year and did not advance anyone to the NCAA Championship finals in Minnesota this past weekend, despite qualifying eight gymnasts.

For the Owls, there were just too many injuries this year.

In a season where the Owls had some amazing team performances, they could only count individual performances at this year’s NCAAs, as they did not qualify as a team. Much like the ECAC Championships, it was a meet during which the Owls often found themselves quite frustrated.

“My intent is always to have someone advance to the championship round, at least one and, hopefully, several,” coach Fred Turoff said. “And I had guys who could have, but I also look at it as I had guys who came into this meet with injuries, and that certainly hindered their training.”

Many of the gymnasts Turoff took to Minnesota will be returning next season.

One of those gymnasts is sophomore Tyler Croteau, who captured Temple’s top individual performance of the day, finishing tied for 16th on floor exercise with a score of 14.800. The gymnast advancing ahead of Croteau only bested him by one-fifteenth of a point.

Like many of the Temple gymnasts, Croteau was able to carry some of his experience from last season’s NCAA Championship into this meet and was able to share some of that with freshman Chris Mooney.

Mooney turned in one of the Owls’ best performances with a 22nd-place finish on rings.

“I just told [Mooney] that he’s been hitting his sets all year long and to keep doing that, and that’s pretty much what he did, and it turned out well for him,” Croteau said.

For Mooney, the atmosphere was a trial run, but he said that he would now know what to expect next year and be more focused.

Also competing at the Championships for the first time was freshman Jeff Zack, who finished tied for 28th on vault with a score of 14.950.

Senior John Vogtman put on a Temple uniform for the final time, and although his best finish of the day, 26th on the rings with a score of 14.250, was not reminiscent of his top performances, he still leaves the Temple gym with no regrets.

“I gave it everything I have,” he said. “I didn’t hold anything back.”

The Owls turned in other respectable performances from future team leaders sophomore Adam Al-Rokh and junior Patrick McLaughlin, who put in 20th-place and 26th-place finishes, respectively, as their top performances each. Al-Rokh competed on the pommel horse for his best finish, and McLaughlin competed on the high bar. Both Al-Rokh and McLaughlin were among the Temple wounded, battling injuries that sum up what was the Achilles’ heel of this Temple team.

However, those who take a closer look into this program might measure its success not solely on numbers but perhaps on heart and determination.

In a year when the Owls constantly battled injuries and frequently started freshmen, they still managed to post impressive individual highs and team performances.

The week of Feb. 14, the Owls ranked No. 4 in the ECAC and took down No. 1 William & Mary by posting a team-high score, at that point in the season, of 332.550.

This was also the year Al-Rokh made a comeback no one talked about.

The junior crash-landed during a release move in practice that had him hovering at least 15 feet above the ground, hitting his face on the steel bar of the high bar event. And yet, he still finished the season.
In addition, Turoff was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame. He also coached two freshmen to ECAC Rookie of the Week honors.

All that will be taken into next season.

“The guys did what they could,” Turoff said. “But we’re about a year away.”

Eric Pellini can be reached at eric.pellini@temple.edu.

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