With a swing of the arms and a backflip off the balance beam, Tiara Wright polished off a 9.850 as Maryland gymnastics’ anchor in the event on Sunday.
In place of Audrey Barber, who sat out due to an academic issue, Wright took over the anchor duties on beam and tied a personal best with the score — her second straight 9.850 of the meet. The senior seamlessly filled in, with her effort helping to soften the blow of two sub-9.500 scores from the Terps in the rotation.
In the eventual 195.475-193.950 victory over No. 22 Illinois, Wright was instrumental alongside freshman Emma Silberman, who took Barber’s place as all-around. The duo powered the Terps on Sunday, with Silberman’s veteran-like composure and Wright’s leadership pacing the team in the face of adversity.
“[Wright] stepped up, and she was the senior leader we needed her to be,” coach Brett Nelligan said. “We got shaky in the middle of the beam lineup, and she not only finished it strong for us, but she showed us how the rest of the afternoon was going to go.”
With the Terps holding on to a slim lead after their triumph on beam, Sunday’s meet came down to the final rotation. And following junior Sabriyya Rouse’s impressive 9.900 on floor, Maryland couldn’t be sure that the meet was in hand.
That’s when Wright provided her team another boost from the anchor spot. Nelligan turned to the senior, and she posted a 9.800 in the final routine of the afternoon.
“She really set the stage leading us into floor, then she did it again on floor,” Nelligan said. “We needed one more score to put us over 195.000, and she delivered all the way through.”
When Nelligan wasn’t heaping praise onto Wright, his attention was on Silberman. In her first year competing in college gymnastics, Silberman’s routines suggested otherwise.
Barber had notched 39-plus scores in each of the first three meets for the Terps. Against Illinois, Silberman filled the void, finishing with an all-around score of 39.150.
Nelligan said he expected Silberman to compete in just one or two events at the beginning of the season, but has been pleasantly surprised with her ability to compete all-around. He credits her progression to the effort she’s given in practice.
“I can’t say enough about this kid,” Nelligan said. “She’s come here as a freshman, and she’s just been an absolute sponge … Her gymnastics has progressed every single day since the first day of school.”
After Silberman started with a 9.700 on vault, it would be her low point, racking a pair of 9.825s as the meet went on. The freshman remained poised, despite having to step up in difficult spots.
“It felt just like practice. I was just doing the routines that I know how to do,” Silberman said. “I didn’t feel any pressure, and I just let whatever happened, happen.”
Both Wright and Silberman had been top performers for Maryland early on, but less was needed from the duo with Barber — who had posted two scores of at least 9.9 in each of the two meets prior — in the lineup. Regardless, the pair of leaders came through in every situation their coach put them in Sunday.
So, although Barber manned the sideline against Illinois, both Silberman and Wright were able to channel the qualities the junior typically brings to a meet.
“Having Audrey’s support today was everything to us,” Wright said. “Everyone who went up to perform executed, and you can tell with the outcome.”