Father and son, coach Fred Turoff and gymnast Evan Eigner, are not the only family members involved in the Temple gymnastics programs – not since freshman Mary Kate Walch made the decision to join her older sister, senior Margaret Walch, on the women’s gymnastics team.
“I really love it because we get to spend a lot of time together,” Margaret said. “My sister and I are really close, so we both just really love it.”
“We have the same kind of sisterly bond, both in and out of the gym,” Mary Kate said. “[Margaret] is always cheering for me, she’s the first one to come over and give me a hug when I get a new skill, and she’s just really encouraging all the time.”
However, the person most appreciative of the sisters’ opportunity to compete together in college is Patty Walch, Margaret and Mary Kate’s mother.
“It’s tremendous,” Patty said. “It’s a mother’s dream. It’s great. I can’t even express it. It’s a dream that has been fulfilled and that makes me a very happy mother.”
Originally, Margaret never really reflected on the possibility of having her little sister come to Temple.
“When I first came to Temple it was never something I thought of,” Margaret said. “But when she started looking at colleges, and then decided she wanted to do college gymnastics here, it was an idea that she started to get passionate about, and then of course I was totally supportive.”
When women’s coach Aaron Murphy started recruiting Mary Kate, Margaret tried to stay out of the way and let Murphy do his own recruiting but admitted that she may have tried to help him out a little along the way.
“I did try to let it play out itself, but I would bug [Murphy] saying, ‘Oh I think Mary Kate emailed you, have you emailed her back?’ and other things like that,” Margaret said.
On coming to Temple, Mary Kate emphasized the importance of, as a freshman, having a senior like her sister to look up to and learn from in her first year of collegiate gymnastics.
“Being on the same college team as my sister is a really good experience for me,” Mary Kate said. “Coming in and being a freshman and not really knowing what the atmosphere is going to be like, [Margaret] set a good example for me and showed me the ropes.”
Murphy also acknowledged the senior leadership skills of Margaret and the positive impact that it has on Mary Kate.
“[Margaret] makes sure that she leads Mary Kate in the right direction,” Murphy said. “Especially because [Margaret] will be done after this year, she wants to make sure that she leaves Mary Kate with a lot of good knowledge of what it takes to be a Temple Owl.”
This year, Margaret has been a steady contributor to the women’s gymnastics team, but because of a number of injuries and ailments, Mary Kate has not been able to participate in many practices and therefore had not cracked any of Murphy’s lineups to make her collegiate debut. But on Feb. 17, at the Towson Invite, Mary Kate did get a chance to compete in an unofficial exhibition on vault, marking the first time that the Walch sisters were able to share the floor together at the collegiate level.
“We were just ecstatic,” Murphy said. “It was the first meet that [Margaret] was competing and her little sister was exhibitioning. I got to talk to their mom after the meet and she got very emotional saying, ‘This was so great, I got to see both my kids at the same competition.’ It was pretty awesome.”
Being able to see both of her daughters performing together collegiately at the Towson Invite was an emotional experience for Patty.
“I knew it was important to the girls to at least get that opportunity at least one time, to be able to be together on the competition floor, so it was very exciting all the way around,” she said.
Margaret, Mary Kate and the rest of the Owls will compete March 3 at West Virginia University. The competition begins at 2 p.m.
Samuel Matthews can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.