Aleka Tsiknias advanced toward the uneven bars to lead off the first rotation for Maryland gymnastics at Saturday’s Iowa Tri-Meet. The Terps had struggled in the event all season but felt ready to turn it around after a hard week of practice.
Tsiknias, a sophomore, floated from bar to bar while executing a complex series of technical flips and twists. But a stumble on the dismount stood out from her otherwise smooth performance — she earned only a 9.0.
Maryland’s score on the apparatus took further blows from a pair of sub-9.60 scores that immediately followed Tsiknias’ fall, and the Terps scored below a 49 for the fourth time in five meets.
So, after Maryland’s first rotation came to a close, coach Brett Nelligan brought his team together and offered some words of encouragement.
That animated huddle changed the Terps’ fortunes.
“He just tells us, ‘We got this, keep pushing, keep fighting for every tenth [of a point],’” senior Collea Burgess said.
Maryland went into its next rotation on beam looking a little more inspired. Some strong performances from Burgess, Sabriyya Rouse and Audrey Barber made up for wobbles from other members to register a slightly better score than on bars.
But the Terps only sought to get better as the meet went on.
“We tried to pick up the intensity on beam, and that was better,” Nelligan said. “We said, ‘OK, that was better, we still feel like we have another level that we can reach.’”
Maryland’s turning point came during its third rotation on floor, when it put its personality on display. Every performance helped energize Nelligan’s squad, and the Terps notched their first score of 49 during the Tri-Meet, with Burgess’ 9.90 pushing her team over that threshold.
“Our focus always shifts to that next event,” Burgess said. “I think we always just dial in … and let’s keep the momentum going as much as we can.”
Maryland was even stronger in its final rotation. The Terps got off to an explosive start with a pair of 9.85s from sophomores Reese McClure and Emma Silberman.
And the team never took its foot off the gas, as three more scores of 9.80 or greater earned Maryland a season-high score of 49.175 on the apparatus. The Terps’ growing intensity throughout the meet earned Nelligan’s squad a 195.35, its best score of the season.
“I’m really proud of their response and the way they’re coming back,” Nelligan said. “You can’t ask for more than that.”
Still, Maryland knows it cannot afford slow starts with only four meets left. And the Terps will want to improve their national qualifying score to make the postseason.
So for Maryland, that means concentrating on solidifying more of the details to get off to a hotter start in its next meet. Once it does, more high scores could be well within reach.
“Focusing on the little details and the little things … That’s what we’ll be working on, I’m sure, and soon we’ll be able to hit it how we want to,” Barber said.