When Maryland gymnastics freshman Karrie Thomas finished her floor routine Sunday at the Maryland Five Meet, she grinned at the judges.
Meanwhile, the gymnasts on Maryland's sideline cheered, laughed and danced as they chanted Thomas' name and mimicked her steps. Coach Brett Nelligan, too, shared this enthusiasm.
Once the judges released Thomas' score, Nelligan fist-pumped, sprinted over to the gymnast and greeted her with a hug.
Thomas posted a career-high of 9.9 for her floor performance Sunday, a sign of the progress she's made as a rookie.
"It's really exciting, especially since it was the last home meet," Thomas said. "I was just trying to give it all for our seniors tonight, and hitting my floor routine is really exciting."
Right before Thomas took the floor, Nelligan offered her words of encouragement. While Nelligan didn't comment on the specifics of what he told her — he remarked with a laugh that it's "top secret" — he said he wants the gymnasts to be comfortable when they compete.
"I just want them to be calm and confident enough to show off their routines," he said. "They have beautiful gymnastics — they just have to trust themselves and let it come out."
Thomas came close to a 9.9 throughout the season. Last weekend, she posted a 9.85 on floor at the George Washington Quad Meet, tying her personal best from earlier in the year.
Though she neared her career high several times, the Coral Springs, Florida, native posted her lowest floor score of the season, 9.15, at the previous home meet March 2. To remain consistent, Thomas has been working on strong handstands and form.
The gymnast's excitement for her career high also impacted her teammates and coaches.
It was an overall impressive performance for the Terps, who are ranked No. 28 in the nation and tied for No. 11 on uneven bars.
The Terps notched their highest bars score of the season (49.325) and posted a season-high of 49.4 on floor after Thomas' career day.
"Talk about a tough freshman – she is learning to adapt to the college pace of meet after meet," Nelligan said. "Now she's thriving, and she gets it."