A New Twist Heading Into Regionals
5 Things to Know About Gymnastics Team Before Tomorrow’s Competition
As if dazzling flips, twists and turns weren’t enough, the Terps gymnastics team added another level of bling to behold this season: the “stick shell.”
It’s a new bedazzled turtle shell worn like a backpack by an athlete who nails her routine—until the next gymnast sticks her landing and puts it on. Other schools award a crown or even a literal stick, but sophomore Collea Burgess came up with the uniquely Terp-themed totem.
The squad will be bringing it tomorrow to the Athens Regional at the University of Georgia, one of four regional sites leading to the National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships.
The Terps, who earned a first-round bye in the competition’s new format, will face top-seeded Oklahoma, No. 16 California and the winner of today’s play-in (either North Carolina State or New Hampshire). The top two from that session, as well as the top two from the region’s other session featuring No. 8 Georgia, No. 9 Kentucky, Missouri and Iowa State, will advance to Saturday’s regional final.
As Maryland hits the mat aiming for perfects 10s, here are five things to know about the squad:
1. By the Numbers
The Terps enter the postseason ranked No. 28 in the country, their highest pre-regional mark since 2013, when they were ranked No. 24. This is the ninth time the team has qualified for regionals under 10th-year Head Coach Brett Nelligan and the third since joining the Big Ten. “This is certainly one of the most talented teams we’ve ever had,” Nelligan said. “But what’s more important than that is their toughness. That’s what’s led us to be successful enough to get this first-round bye.”
2. A Balanced Team
The Terps will end tomorrow’s competition on the balance beam, which some teams dislike, because it can be nerve-wracking to have your fate rest on a 4-inch-wide apparatus. But Maryland gets “kind of a rush out of ending on beam,” Nelligan said. “They take it as a challenge.” In its best meet this season, Senior Sunday against Penn, Southern Connecticut and Brown, UMD scored 196.525 overall and earned a 49.200 on beam, the team’s best mark in the event in 15 years.
3. An All-Around Star
Performances by sophomore Audrey Barber have been highlights for the Terps all season, including her first-place all-around finish in UMD’s session at the Big Ten Championships. She’s tied for Maryland’s all-time record on the uneven bars with a 9.925 score set last March. “She’s such a fierce competitor,” Nelligan said. “The bigger the moment, the bigger the meet, the more she wants to perform at her best.”
4. All in the Family
Before Nelligan began coaching the Terps in the 2010 season, his father, Bob “Duke” Nelligan, was at the helm for 31 years. The elder Nelligan notched 19 winning seasons and 493 victories before his son, an assistant with UMD since 2003, took over. “My goal would be to build upon the foundation that he established and take us even further to another level,” Brett Nelligan said.
5. Winners Beyond the Mat
The gymnastics team took home gold in their studies, with eight athletes earning Academic All-Big Ten Honors this year, the most of any winter sport at UMD. Student-athletes must be letter-winners in at least their second academic year and carry a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher to be recognized. “They have a priority list in their locker room that goes 1. School, 2. Gym, 3. Everything else,” Nelligan said.