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Maryland gymnastics reaches new heights in final home meet

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Maryland gymnastics bid farewell to six seniors Sunday afternoon in the final meet of the season at Xfinity Center. The question in the air was could the GymTerps reach the team score of 196.000 that had eluded them all season.

Courtesy Maryland Athletics / Greg Fiume

The GymTerps hosted Bridgeport, Southern Connecticut, and William & Mary in their final home quad meet of the season. Of course, being the last home meet of the season also made it senior day and the Terps sent off a large and very productive group of six seniors. Katy Dodds and Stephanie Giameo had both attained All-American status at one point in their careers, Karen Tang held an EAGL Championship and a pair of school records, Dani Kram, Shannon Skochko, and Ebony Walters all had roles on squads that reached the NCAA Tournament every year of the Terrapins careers.

Each of the seniors would compete on at least one event and they and their teammates seemed focused and intent on leaving everything on the floor and taking their highest score of the season into the Big Ten's Big Five meet at Nebraska on Saturday. The result of the meet was never in doubt. The open question would be whether the squad could finally reach the team score of 196.00 - a goal they had aspired to all season.

First Rotation - Vault

Immediately needing to overcome the emotion of senior day, Karen Tang opened Maryland's vault rotation by equaling her season best score. The Senior's 9.725 set the tone for a team score that would be among the Terps' best of the season. Part of the future of Maryland gymnastics, Dominiquea Trotter followed with a 9.800. The next member of the Terrapins' freshman dynamic duo was Abbie Epperson took the third slot in the rotation and tallied a 9.775.

Karen Tang's younger sister Kathy presented her sibling with a very solid 9.800 in the fourth rotational spot. Skochko, whose scores on vault have had a general upward trend, scored a team high 9.825 to open her senior day competition. Katy Dodds rounded out the event with a typical solid score of 9.800. The Terps posted a team score of 49.000 reaching that floor for the fifth time on the season.

Second rotation - Bars

The vault was merely an appetizer for Maryland Sunday afternoon. As has been the case all season, Sarah Faller would open the GymTerps beam rotation. It would be an understatement to say the Raleigh sophomore nailed her routine. She put down a season and personal best 9.850 to get the Terps started. Dodds followed with a 9.650 recovering from her 9.100 in the last meet in Texas. Stepping up third for Maryland, another freshman, Evelyn Nee, registered her Terrapins' personal best with a 9.825.

Epperson followed and added a 9.850 posting that personal high for the fourth time this season. What better gift could Kathy Tang give Karen than yet the fourth personal best in five routines? That's precisely what she did with her 9.875. Though she didn't match her personal best 9.925, Karen managed another impressive score matching Epperson and Faller with a 9.850.

When all  was said and done, the Terrapins' team score was a season high 49.250 and was just shy of the all time record of 49.325. For those not keeping track, Maryland's two rotation score or 98. 250 put them more than halfway to that 196.000 target.

Third rotation - Beam

The balance beam had been problematic for Maryland early in the season and had turned into one of their strengths late in the campaign. Sunday, it was neither great nor terrible but was, instead, solid. Faller once again had the lead off spot and, for the first time this season failed to register at least a 9.700 though she did in the eyes of one judge. The second judge gave her a 9.600 score making her score for the event a 9.650. Kram and Trotter followed with identical 9.650 scores.

Skochko, occupying the fourth position in the rotation, started an upward trend with her score of 9.675. Leah Slobodin had a strong routine and fought to hold onto her dismount. Her efforts paid off with a 9.800. Giameo, holding down the anchor spot as always, put up the highest score of the night a 9.850. The team score of 48.625 was more than three tenths of a point off the season high. Though Maryland's score of 146.875 after three events left them with a comfortable lead, it also left them needing their highest score of the season on the floor exercise to reach 196.000.

Fourth rotation - Floor

Several meets ago, after watching Giameo struggle in the lead off spot on the floor, Maryland head coach Brett Nelligan opted to move her to the third slot and, instead, open with Trotter in the lead off spot. It paid off again as the freshman got Maryland off to a very good start posting a 9.750. Skochko followed with a 9.725 and Giameo overcame her difficulties with an outstanding 9.800.

The Tang sisters followed with Karen posting a 9.825 and Kathy a 9.800. Ebony Walters, the only senior who had not yet competed anchored the Terps on the floor as she had all season. All she needed to to to get her team to 196.000 was to meet or exceed a 9.950. It meant  that she would have to surpass her previous personal best of 9.900.

Walters soared and tumbled and twisted sticking each tumbling pass. When the judges revealed their scores, both gave her a 9.950. In the final performance of the final meet of her career at Xfinity Center, the senior from Silver Spring had done it. She registered her personal best and lifted her team to a score of 196.000 for the first time in over three seasons.