After the Maryland gymnastics team competed in the Big Ten Championships last month, coach Brett Nelligan asked the Terps to write letters to themselves.
The Terps had just endured a tough competition, dropping them one spot from qualifying to NCAA Regionals, and the coach wanted his squad to reflect. The team's three seniors — Emily Brauckmuller, Leah Slobodin and Sarah Faller — each wrote a letter to their teammates, too.
The notes were a tactic Nelligan relied on earlier this season to spark his team's seven-meet run when it scored at least a 195.00. He hopes the reflections about the late slide from postseason contention drive the Terps in the offseason.
"To experience the adversity has made a lot of us, including myself, better gymnasts," freshman Kirsten Peterman said.
The Terps faced several challenges throughout the season, falling to 44th in the national rankings in late January. At the beginning of March, however, Maryland had climbed to No. 26.
That resulted from the Terps' best stretch of the season. Their 195.00 streak, which Nelligan called his fondest memory of the season, started Feb. 5 against Michigan. The seventh competition was a March 1 contest when the Terps posted a 195.80 in a quad meet with Temple, New Hampshire, William & Mary and West Chester.
"Just when I thought they couldn't do it again — they're tired, they're young, they're hurting, they're sore — they had their best meet of the year," Nelligan said. "This is challenging for a really young team like this that's still finding themselves. The way they handled it really blew me away. It made me feel like we got something here for the future."
The Terps were in position for a regionals team berth entering the final two competitions of the season. Instead, they declined at the Big Five Meet, posting their worst score since the middle of January, and were relegated to the afternoon session of the Big Ten Championship the next weekend, when they posted a 193.625 and ultimately missed a regional team berth by .01.
Nelligan maintained those meets were flukes, not indicative of the team's ability. Brauckmuller, who told the Terps to remember why they're gymnasts in her most recent letter, feels the program has a promising future, too.
"This year, I think I learned to just accept the way that things fall into play," Brauckmuller said. "I know in previous years, we would always get mad about judges or scores or things like that and this year, I learned that you have to let those things go and everything's going to work out the way it should work out."