PHILADELPHIA—It's back to action on the mats and apparatuses for the Temple men's gymnastics team, as the 2012 season gets underway on Saturday in Annapolis, Md. at the Navy Open.
Head coach and USA Gymnastics Hall of Famer Fred Turoff, now in his 36th season overseeing the Owls, is returning 17 of his 21 gymnasts from last season's impressive second place finish at the EIGL-ECAC Championships, finishing only behind host Illinois-Chicago.
Seven members of last season's team—five of which are returning—qualified for nationals, allowing them to continue to compete beyond Temple's strong run in the conference championships.
Because of their strong results in the qualifier, returning junior Alex Tighe and new assistant coach Patrick McLaughlin earned bids to last season's NCAA Championships to represent Temple University. McLaughlin's success on parallel bars in the championships earned him a seventh place finish, making him Temple's first All-American since 2004.
The success in competition didn't stop there.
Temple Men's Gymnastics shined in the classroom as well, putting the program on the map by topping the nation in grade point average among all men's gymnastics squads in the United States, with an outstanding 3.519 gpa to help them move up one notch from the previous season's second place finish.
Last season was filled with a tremendous amount of success across the board and is now in the past, but is motivation for building upon those accomplishments in 2012.
McLaughlin, Scott Bloomfield, Jesse Kitzen-Abelson and John Gaffney all have departed after making their mark on the program, making room for freshmen Scott Haddaway, Michael Bittner, transfer redshirt freshman Philip Longoand sophomore Charles Baldi.
Collins, a member of last year's Temple's Trustee Ten for being one of the top student-athletes in terms of gpa, was the Owls' top-finisher in several events last season, including a meet-high score of 14.200 on high bar.
Mooney also placed first in his events multiple times last season, leading him to be a three-apparatus (high bar, floor and vault) national qualifier.
Senior Adam Al-Rokh returns after a very productive season for his team as well. In last season's opening meet at West Point, he got his season off to a strong start with an all-around score of 81.600, which included a second place finish on pommel horse (13.600).
Consistency in events from meet-to-meet is what Temple is focused on being able to maintain this season, while being able to peak going into the conference championships.
The Owls should have a boost come time for the ECAC Championships in early April, since the competition will be held in the familiar confines of McGonigle Hall.
The docket opens tomorrow at the Navy Open. From there it's on to West Point and then to Las Vegas for the Winter Cup Challenge before returning home to host back-to-back meets.
On Feb. 18, the Owls will host a tri-meet, as they welcome Springfield and Illinois-Chicago prior to going one-on-one with Air Force eight days later in McGonigle Hall.
The slate rounds out with meets at Army, Navy, William & Mary and Penn State before hosting ECAC Championships.