As Audrey Barber took a 10-step sprint toward the springboard, she was chasing more than the vault — the fifth-year senior was racing to the record books.
Catapulting high off of the vault, Barber’s legs stuck together like a mannequin, with her feet and toes pointed out like an extension of her ankle.
Gliding through the air she rotated 540 degrees forward with a full twist, completing a Yurchenko full.
Barber couldn’t quite stick the landing, having to take a small hop back, but it didn’t matter — both judges flashed 9.900, and Barber broke Rachel Martinez’s 17-year standing record, becoming Maryland gymnastics’ all-time leading scorer.
Barber took the crown in a fitting manner — coming into the day, she tallied seven of the Terps’ 11 scores of 9.9 or higher in the season — then, she added yet another to her resume by tying her career-high on vault with the 9.900.
On top of that, Barber — a Maryland native — posted 39.450 in the All-Around, winning the All-Around event in Xfinity Center Sunday with her family in attendance, something she’s done routinely since her freshman year.
Following the conclusion of Maryland’s historic victory, teammates swarmed Barber, suffocating the fifth-year senior with love on the floor mat while the jumbotron and PA announcer shared her feat.
Barber had to know that was coming, but on top of that was a tearful surprise.
Standing with just her head coach, Brett Nelligan, Barber’s eyes watered as the two glanced up at the screen where they were met with a montage. It started with Barber’s first ever routine and ended in her record-setting one — both Yurchenko fulls at Xfinity Center.
Between the mirror image vaults in the video, several GymTerp alumni — including Martinez — congratulated Barber for breaking the record.
Those tears were a product of five years; five years full of stuck dismounts, All-Around titles, All-Big Ten selections and meet-winning routines.
But they were also the product of five years full of unimaginably rigorous hours in the gym, competing through pain, heart-wrenching losses and even sitting most of her junior season out.
“The video was so amazing, I honestly wasn’t expecting it and then just, like, to see me develop and how I’ve grown over the years just made me really happy and really proud of myself,” Barber said. “It’s really exciting, and I think it’s well deserved because of all the hard work and dedication that I’ve put in.”
And while Barber was emotional, there was no shortage of sentiment from Nelligan, who has been by Barber’s side through it all for the last half-decade.
“To watch that video, I got a little emotional because I know how much this has meant to her — and it’s meant as much to me as well,” Nelligan said. “It just makes me so grateful for everything that she’s done for our program and for me personally, as well. She’s made me a better coach, she’s made our program better. And I know all the sacrifices she’s made along the way.”
Nelligan also said Barber is someone who has a winning DNA and someone he can always trust to produce, particularly when the lights are brightest.
Although Barber isn’t the most naturally vocal leader, her mindset, ability to perform no matter the circumstance and plentiful experience led to her being someone her teammates can look up to.
“Being on the team is one of the best experiences just because she is a great leader. She always knows what to do, she calms the team down,” freshman Josephine Kogler said. “She always goes in with a competitive mindset, but she also doesn’t let anything bother her. And really looking at that makes you want to replicate it.”
Nelligan has said that he’s seen Kogler and fellow freshman Sierra Kondo display that similar ability to produce when it matters most, which is why he trusts them enough to put them in the leadoff spot of his vault and bars rotation.
However, replicating Barber is far easier said than done, which ultimately is what makes her such a valuable part of the team.
Even before the season began and before Kogler and Kondo began putting up big numbers, Nelligan knew how important it was for his younger gymnasts to hear Barber’s voice when she spoke up.
“Where she shines is off on the one-on-one conversations,” Nelligan said ahead of the season. “If she sees an underclassmen struggling, she’s good at going over there and building them up or supporting them or encouraging them … She doesn’t feel like she needs to take control of the situation or be loud. She leads more through her gymnastics.”
And while Barber remained focused on winning rather than individual accolades throughout the season, even she has nerves. Although Maryland’s new all-time leading scorer rarely shows them, after breaking the record, Barber admitted they were present.
Still, they didn’t get in the way of production and as Maryland gymnastics enters the postseason in the near future, Nelligan and Barber’s teammates know they have an unfazed star ready to give it her all on every routine.
There remains just two meets left before the Big Ten Championships and entering that stretch, the Terps have put up two of the program’s top five all-time scores in the last month. Barber, who used her extra year of COVID eligibility to return to Maryland’s team, is just soaking it all in.
“I didn’t expect it to be this great. I thought things would just go smoothly and then I would graduate … [but] this year has been an absolute blast,” Barber said. “The team is amazing. And we are capable of so many amazing things.”