As the Maryland gymnastics team prepared for beam at the Big Ten championships, the squad didn't look for motivation from the all-around competitors who have been instrumental in the Terps qualifying for their first NCAA tournament in three years.
Instead, senior Evelyn Nee — who didn't compete at the conference championships — energized the team with a pep talk.
On a team made up largely of underclassmen, the experience of Nee and other Terps veterans has been useful in helping lead the young squad, even as many of them don't compete as often as they did in years past.
"I have to watch myself more because the other girls are looking up to me," Nee said. "At the same time, I look up to our freshmen, too."
Many of the freshmen said they appreciate the seniors' guidance during preparation for meets. Freshman Audrey Barber particularly values the bus rides to meets, as she can spend this time talking to older teammates.
"It's great that they feel comfortable with me to talk about anything," junior Shynelle Agaran said.
As the team prepares for regionals, Nee recalled her most memorable experience as a collegiate gymnast — the 2015 Auburn Regional. At the time, the Vienna, Virginia, native was a freshman who competed primarily on bars.
"That was an incredible experience," Nee said. "It was the biggest competition that we had ever gone to."
Nee loved the time bonding with her teammates through the travel, preparation and competition, and is excited for the underclassmen to experience the same camaraderie this weekend.
Last season, Nee competed in all 13 meets on bars and added 12 beam routines. The year before, she was in eight vault lineups along with competing 12 times on bar and beam. As a senior, she's performed just three times on events other than bars.
Like Nee, most of Maryland's upperclassmen have also seen their opportunities dwindle this season, but coach Brett Nelligan said they have contributed in other ways.
"The upperclassmen have done a great job of being leaders," Nelligan said. "If the younger players come to them for guidance or concerns, the upperclassmen have been great at giving them confidence, calming them down and telling them what to expect at certain meets."
That guidance has helped the young squad, but Nee said the gymnasts don't focus on their age, helping keep an open, relaxed environment.
"We don't distinguish between upperclassmen and underclassmen. Anyone that wants to take a leadership role can," Nee said. "[But] as a senior, I try to take a leadership role and encourage the underclassmen."