Maryland women’s gymnastics sophomore Sophia LeBlanc spun around the uneven bars — and with a combination of flips and twists, she looked the most comfortable she had all season.
Her routine’s final score proved her comfort on the apparatus. After an impressive dismount and solid landing, the judges awarded LeBlanc a score of 9.80, a new career-best. It was one of two career highs for LeBlanc — she recorded another on the balance beam.
And LeBlanc’s performances were essential in driving coach Brett Nelligan’s squad to its second-best score of the season. The Terps earned a combined 195.725 — a higher score than their first meet at Xfinity Center — but they had to overcome their fair share of obstacles on the way there.
“I don’t want to overstate it, but we’ve had adversity this whole week,” Nelligan said. “We’ve been on the road so much and traveling.”
The meet was distinguished by strong performances — including junior Alexsis Rubio’s 39 in her first time competing in the all-around. Sophomore Emma Silberman was initially slated to complete the all-around but couldn’t because she suffered an injury during the Terps’ second rotation on the bars. But one injury in particular cast a shadow over the rest.
Junior Sanya Glauber had not competed for the Terps in over a month — she had suffered falls in her only two appearances for Maryland this season before Friday evening’s Big Five meet.
To make matters worse, Glauber had also been battling an elbow injury for months. While physical therapy and doctors visits made it easier to manage, the pain was still there on Friday night.
With three of his regular fixtures in the bars lineup sidelined due to COVID-19 contact tracing protocols, Nelligan had to rely on Glauber’s experience and grit to assist the Terps on Friday.
“It kind of started last year, actually, and then after we got back from quarantine and started picking up practice again, I started feeling a little worse,” Glauber said. “This meet definitely, mentally, I had to be as strong as I could, so that was kind of my goal coming into it.”
Since the last time she competed, Glauber has worked closely with Nelligan to mentally prepare for when she would get the opportunity to return.
“Me and Brett work a lot together on bars, talking through routines. And the mental aspect is definitely huge, especially for me,” Glauber said.
And Glauber’s return to action was impressive. With every handstand, flip, twist and grab, her teammates knew they were watching something special. And when Glauber performed her dismount, there was a brief pause filled with anticipation and pent-up excitement.
With a stuck landing came an eruption of cheers and screams from the Maryland sideline as the Terps flocked to Glauber. Bombarded with high fives and suffocated by hugs, Glauber’s smiling face showed every ounce of her excitement.
Moments later, when Glauber’s score showed up on the screen next to the judges’ table, Maryland history had been made: Glauber had tied the program’s record on the uneven bars with a 9.95, becoming the third Terp ever to do so. Only senior Audrey Barber and Tiara Wright, another of Glauber’s former teammates, have done it before.
Nelligan was impressed with Glauber’s composure throughout the entire routine. And when she calmly landed on the mat, he knew the exact moment he had just witnessed something incredible.
“When she hit the ground — we talk about it all the time, you’re not done until both feet are on the ground,” Nelligan said. “Did I know she had it in her? Absolutely … it was a matter of believing in herself and putting it all together.”