As senior Audrey Barber drifted from one uneven bar to the other during her routine in Maryland gymnastics’ meet against Penn State, she became a graceful machine.
The 9.80 she earned Friday evening snapped her team’s cold streak, after the Terps suffered two falls and another season-low score. But Barber looked confident in her routine, unshaken by her teammates’ missteps, and the Terps had a glimmer of success to cap off the team’s first sub-48 score on any apparatus this season.
Heading into Saturday’s Iowa Tri Meet, Maryland is looking to avoid any more surprises on the apparatus.
“We’ve obviously been disappointed with the falls, but we’re hitting them every day in practice,” coach Brett Nelligan said.
Most of the Terps’ mistakes on bars this season have come on release moves, or when a gymnast lets go of the bar to perform a maneuver and then grabs it again on their way down. Maryland prides itself on executing single-bar releases, some of the most difficult actions in the sport.
With no intentions of simplifying his squad’s routines, Nelligan instead plans to debut freshman Tayler Osterhout on the bars lineup this weekend. Osterhout has impressed her coach with strong performances in the exhibition slot on bars during the Terps’ last two meets.
“We hold ourselves to a real high standard,” Nelligan said. “We feel like we can handle it.”
For Nelligan, the key to this task is replicating the competition-day atmosphere in practice. He demands his team stay loud with cheers and tries to put them in high-pressure scenarios outside of meet-day.
This type of pressure in practice has been especially helpful for Maryland’s freshmen, who are not as used to gymnastics being a team sport.
“I would get up there and be so nervous but now, as we do more and more days like that, I feel like I’m beginning to relax my body and find my cues,” freshman Olivia Weir said.
As the Terps prepare to take on No. 9 Iowa and No. 12 Minnesota, they know that staying loud and creating positive energy for each other can help them break into that group of elite teams after two weeks of being unranked.
“We really try to keep the energy up at practice so we’re prepared when we get to meets and just try to cheer everyone on throughout every routine and try and stay engaged,” freshman Elizabeth DeBarberie said.
Nelligan said he remains impressed with his team’s dedication and work ethic during practice; he thinks his team is ready to overcome the obstacles it has faced so far and make a strong impression, he said.
And with that preparation, he said he hopes mistakes will be minimized.
“They’re so good in the gym, they’re so talented,” Nelligan said. “We’ve got to settle down and let that come through in the meet.”