Women’s gymnastics misses USAG team finals by .3 points

Temple finished third in its group behind Cornell and Texas Women’s, but five Owls competed in the individual event finals.

The women’s gymnastics team wrapped up its 2010 season with a solid performance in the USA Gymnastics National Championships but failed to qualify for team finals.

Last Thursday, the Owls scored a 191.375 and missed out by .3 points to Cornell University in the preliminary round in Denton, Texas.

The Owls finished third in their group behind Cornell and Texas Women’s University and fourth in the competition. Despite the fourth-place score, the Owls did not qualify for the finals last Friday, as only the Top 2 teams in each group qualify. Bridgeport University and Rutgers University were the other two squads that advanced.

“I’m definitely not a fan of this method because it technically doesn’t take the actual best teams from Thursday going into Friday,” coach Aaron Murphy said. “We technically were the fourth-ranked team out of the eight, and we got bumped out because of the way the method is. But that’s how it runs.”

The Owls started off the day on floor and hit every routine for a 48.7. They followed that up with solid performances on the vault and scored a 47.975.

Temple struggled on the uneven parallel bars and the beam. The Owls fell three times and scored a combined 94.7 to close out their preliminary round.

“We went into that event [the beam] very confident, knowing what we could do,” Murphy said. “But, unfortunately, the first two girls up ended up falling on their beam routines.”

When the Owls had finished up on the beam, the final scores showed they had fallen just short. The three falls cost the Owls a second-place finish and a spot in the finals last Friday.

“Once we saw how close it was, it really digs into your heart because you’re just like, ‘Man, if one girl just would’ve stayed on, then we would’ve been advancing to Friday’s Final Four,’” Murphy said.

Despite the team’s early exit, several Owls still had work to do last Saturday. Senior Nina Oteri, juniors Katie Canning and Chelsea Troutman and sophomores Corrine Williams and Kaity Watson qualified for the individual event finals. The seven finalists were the most to represent Temple since Murphy began coaching four years ago.

“That’s definitely another plus for where the program is going and really just shows how hard these girls have been working,” Murphy said. “I’m very happy with that.”

Watson struggled on the vault, her only event, and Troutman did the same on the parallel bars. Williams was able to medal on the floor and the beam and finished sixth both times. Canning also medaled. She finished fourth on the vault.

But Oteri earned top honors for the day. The team’s lone competing senior last Saturday finished third on the floor to cap off her career for the Cherry and White.

“I think it was pretty special for her, especially considering the fact that she’s a senior, and this was her final competition of her career,” Murphy said. “I think it meant the world to her.”

“I cried when I ended my floor routine just because I knew that was pretty much the best I could do, and it would be the last time,” Oteri added. “It was just really a good way to end a career I guess.”

Despite the finish at the USAG National Championships, the Owls still took third place in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship for the second consecutive year, the first time that has been done in Temple women’s gymnastics history.

“I’m very pleased,” Murphy said. “My initial goal was to, at conference, either match what we did from the previous year or do better. I definitely had my heart set on making team finals.”

With the season over, the Owls have started to focus on next season, one without Oteri and fellow senior Danielle Viens. Murphy has already started preparations and has kept in constant contact with the incoming freshman class.

“[The incoming freshman class] said they want to be in that Final Four, and I told them that’s definitely a goal that we have to have, and we have to achieve next year,” Murphy said.

Jake Adams can be reached at jake.adams@temple.edu.

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