Briana Odom grew up idolizing her older brother, Brandon.
The junior all-around from Waldorf, Maryland did everything Brandon did, including playing recreational football.
Eventually Odom’s parents felt it was time for her to branch out on her own. She got involved in swimming, girl scouts, dance, ballet and gymnastics.
No matter which activity she took part in, one thing she did stood out in her mind.
“At the end of the day my parents asked me which one I wanted to do, and it was gymnastics,” Odom said. “It wasn’t even a thought, because I would compete in those other things and be doing cartwheels and stuff.”
Odom stuck with the sport through high school despite a busy schedule.
She would get out of school around 3 p.m. After, she would have a short period of free time before the start of gymnastics practice with Unique Sports Academy in Waldorf.
Practice let out at 9 p.m., and with homework and studying, sleep sometimes did not come until around 1 p.m.
“With all the projects, I would end up staying up really late,” Odom said. “That would probably be the hardest thing about gymnastics.”
Despite those long days, late-night dinners and sleep-deprived nights, Odom found gymnastics was the sport she wanted to pursue collegiately after being a five-time level 10 Maryland State and Regional Championships qualifier and qualified for the Junior Olympic National Invitational Tournament.
When Odom joined the Owls as a walk-on in 2014, she competed in all of the team’s 13 events, including the United States of America Gymnastics Nationals, where she earned first team All-American honors.
This season, Odom was named one of the squad’s three captains.
“It was clear when we came in as a new staff that she took on that leadership role,” coach Umme Salim-Beasley said. “She leads by example, so it was very obvious she was going to come in and be a leader in any way possible.”
Recently at the Lindsey Ferris Invitational in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 17, Odom set career highs with a score of 9.8 on her floor routine and an overall score of 38.875 to help the Owls secure a third-place finish.
Odom was also named the Eastern College Athletic Conference gymnast of the week on Jan. 19.
“I think Bri is a great example of leadership for this team as well as a perfect example of what the program should follow,” junior all-around Victoria Reggiani said. “In gymnastics there’s always a warmup period, and if things aren’t going right she’ll keep her cool. But when it’s competition time and time to make it count, she pulls through for the team at all times.”
Daniel Newhart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dannynewhart.
Video by Linh Than.