Despite being on a team that fell out of a top 25 spot, Natalie Martin demonstrated why she is a leader of an ambitious Maryland gymnastics squad. The freshman has competed in three of four events in each meet this year, averaging a 9.850 on vault and floor and a 9.856 on balance beam.

Martin was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week the week of Jan. 30 after guiding the Terps to a score of 49.050 on both floor and beam. But in coach Brett Nelligan’s opinion, Martin isn’t only dominating the Big Ten scene — she’s making waves on the national stage.

“We knew she was talented, we knew she could be a big-time competitor in the Big Ten and on the national landscape but she’s exceeding our expectations,” Nelligan said. “I think she’s exceeding her own expectations … we just wanna see her keep going.”

The four-star recruit was named 2022 Ohio State Champion on floor before coming to Maryland. She added a first place floor and second place beam and all-around finishes at regionals the same year.

Now as a Terp, Martin said her joy for beam has increased. It’s her highest-scoring event early in her collegiate career.

Martin mounted the beam Sunday against Ohio State and immediately tumbled into a back handspring to layout step out, precisely staying in line with the four-inch beam. She transitioned into a side aerial and quickly moved to a back-to-back switch split. Martin closed her routine with a full turn and a back handspring to one and a half, sticking the landing.

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After displaying composure and an ability to stay consistently balanced, the judges awarded her with a career-high 9.875.

The freshman leads the team in beam averages with Josephine Kogler, offering controlled tumbling and well-paced leap sequences.

“I think it’s really fun,” she said. “There’s not a skill that I find particularly hard. I feel like any day, any of them can be a little rough, so it kind of depends on the day. But I love beam.”

Along with her beam routine, Martin’s vault skill, a Yurchenko one and a half, exhibits great difficulty. The move’s starting value is a 10.0. A common Yurchenko full has a starting value of 9.95 since gymnasts competing this skill complete one less twist in the air. Martin is tied for ninth in the Big Ten vault standings.

Martin said she set cues for herself to follow as she sprinted down the vault runway and bounced off the springboard onto the table. Those cues helped her maintain form through each portion of her routine. When Martin transitions off the springboard, she thinks to move her hands as quickly as possible to the table to get a strong block into the air.

She also spots through the air and tries to watch the floor as much as possible to get a solid landing. Despite following sharp cues throughout the short movement, Martin said the hardest part of the event is the initial hurdle right before putting her hands on the handmat.

[No. 25 Maryland gymnastics drops first home meet to No. 12 Ohio State, 196.625-195.800]

“If I get a little too forward [before the springboard], I can get a little weird, so it’s really important that I stay back,” Martin said.

The freshman follows cues on floor, too. She tallied her first 9.900 among all events with her floor performance on Sunday. Martin said she discusses her routine with assistant coaches JJ Ferreira and Morgan Epps before competing and replays those cues as she performs, which allow her to remain locked-in.

Martin anchored Maryland’s floor unit Sunday, opening her routine in a full twisting double tuck, a difficult E-rated skill that gives her a higher starting value. She then executed a one and a half to front layout before a few dance elements and a high-flying leap series. Martin landed her final pass, a double back tuck, with composure and saluted a final time to the judges.

Although it is uncommon for freshmen to compete in the all-around, Nelligan said there is potential for Martin to compete on bars in the future. Her bars routine finishes with an E-rated dismount, Nelligan said.

He said that they’re working on improving her consistency on bars — something she’s excelled at on the other three events, as she’s scored above 9.80 in 11 of her 12 collegiate routines.

While the season is still young, the Terps’ star freshman has already proven herself to her coach.

“She’s arrived,” Nelligan said.