Briana Odom progressed quickly upon her arrival to the collegiate ranks.
The sophomore competed in all 13 of the women’s gymnastics team’s competitions last season. In seven of them, Odom competed as an all-around, as she took part in each of the sport’s four events.
By the end of her rookie season in 2014, Odom had notched season-high scores of 9.675 on vault, 9.7 on bars, 9.675 on the beam and 9.675 on floor. At the United States Gymnastics National Championships, Odom finished eighth in the all-around and also earned first-team All-American honors as a freshman alongside Reagan Oliveri (beam).
Along with Odom and Oliveri, Lauren Capone made first team All-American on the vault as a junior, while Jasmine Johnson earned second-team honors.
Odom’s immediate impact as a freshman came as a pleasant surprise to ninth-year coach Aaron Murphy, who acknowledged the difficulty of gauging potential contributions that could come from a first-year collegiate gymnast.
“These freshmen come in and you really don’t know what to expect,” Murphy said. “We just have to test them out. Thankfully, Briana Odom was good in competition. She seemed to be cool, calm, collected in a way and didn’t let the nerves get the best of her.”
Odom has an edge about her that Murphy said inclined him to use her frequently during her freshman season.
“You come across certain athletes and after seeing them or evaluating you kind of think they just have that extra edge,” Murphy said. “If you’re looking to define a competitor within our sport, a competitor would be Briana Odom. No matter what obstacles are thrown at her she’s willing to compete.”
The Waldorf, Maryland native graduated from North Point High School and was a five-time Level 10 Maryland state and regional qualifier. In 2012, Odom qualified for the Junior Olympic National Invitational Tournament.
While Odom had success in high school, the high school and collegiate levels of gymnastics feature glaring differences. In Odom’s opinion, the level of camaraderie in college was something she said didn’t exist in high school.
“The big difference is in high school you are competing for yourself,” Odom said. “When I came to college it was a big stress about the team because you’re competing for your college.”
Capone, now a senior, has taken on a leadership role this season. While Murphy can talk to his gymnasts whenever he chooses, there is a different dynamic to having upperclassmen like Capone speak to the younger athletes on the roster like Odom.
“I think it’s an easier connection to make as a freshman,” Capone said. “Because when you come in as a freshman, it’s a little intimidating. But when you have teammates that do the same thing as you every day, it’s quicker to build that relationship.”
If things were intimidating for Odom as a freshman, she certainly didn’t show it. Capone raved about how quickly Odom adjusted to collegiate gymnastics.
“She’s a rock star. She blew our minds when she came in,” Capone said.
Early on in her sophomore season, Odom has been limited to the uneven bars and the balance beam due to a sprained ankle. Once she gains full clearance in all four events, she said she wants to build upon the foundation she laid in 2014.
“I think it’s better to try and work out the kinks now, in the beginning,” Odom said, “so that further in the season when we really need the scores, it’ll count.”
Greg Frank can be reached at email@example.com