Maryland gymnastics knows when the equipment it’s competing on isn’t the team’s own.
While most use the same brand of equipment, well-trained gymnasts can notice subtle differences that occur with regular use.
A floor that is brand new may feel tight, and one that is too old may feel “dead.” Both situations would prevent a gymnast from reaching the height she normally gets in her acrobatic maneuvers.
For the first two meets of the season, Maryland has been forced to adapt to the unfamiliar. And the results have been mixed. The Terps started the season strong, but underperformed against Rutgers last week. However, competing at home for the first time all season might just be the perfect environment for the Terps to turn things around.
“I’m hoping to see a comfort level about being back at home,” Nelligan said. “Being on the road three straight weeks to open the season is really challenging. I don’t think we’ve ever done that before.”
The Terps, who slipped out of the top 25 after earning a 194.925 at Rutgers on Saturday, are planning to take advantage of playing in familiar surroundings, the luxuries of being in College Park and the positive energy they offer each other to post their first 196 of the season Friday.
Friday evening’s contest against Penn State ends Maryland’s three-meet stretch on the road and serves as the team’s home-opener for the season. The Terps’ original home-opener, scheduled for Jan. 23 against Michigan State, was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns from the Spartans.
Some of the younger members of Maryland’s squad have noticed the extra excitement of the seniors, who are determined to seize the opportunity.
“They’re really trying to take it all in. They’ve been … trying to focus on the details and have their best time this weekend,” sophomore Aleka Tsiknias said.
It has been more than 11 months since Maryland won the Terrapin Invitational on March 1, 2020 — the last time the team competed in Xfinity Center. Despite having a different roster, the Terps will hope to recreate the type of success they found nearly a year ago; the team scored a 196.975 during its last meet in College Park.
Maryland’s gymnasts embrace the comforts of being at home: resting in their own beds the night before the meet and competing on the equipment they are familiar with. Still, there remain some pandemic-related drawbacks this season.
While being at home comes with its perks, the atmosphere of Xfinity Center will be different for Maryland, as its gymnasts won’t get the chance to look up and see their families and friends cheering for them as in years past. Instead the Terps will have to bring their own energy to home meets this season.
“It’s definitely going to be hard not having any fans this year,” sophomore Reese McClure said. “But our team has really focused on getting into each routine and really being present so that you don’t even notice that people aren’t there.”
With that energy, as well as the familiar spring of their own floor and the grip of their own bars, the Terps hope they can propel themselves back among the nation’s best.
“It’s also really comforting to be back in the place that we can really call our own and where we feel the most comfortable,” senior Collea Burgess said. “It makes wearing the Maryland leo that much bigger.”
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story’s photo caption misstated the date of the 2020 Terrapin Invitational as March 1, 2020. The invitational was on March 3, 2020. The caption has been updated.