The #7 Denver Pioneers gymnastics team faced an uphill battle with a tough Semifinal 1 bracket. Oklahoma was undefeated (15-0). Utah was stacked with 5 all-Americans. UCLA came in with 6 national championships and two Olympic champions on their squad. Washington, Oregon, and Denver gave it their very best but could not punch their way past the three national powers.
Nonetheless, the Pioneers put in a great effort. Freshman Maddie Karr delivered big time on the national stage by leading the Pioneers in 2 of 4 events (vault & floor) and tied Sam Ogden and Kaitlyn Schou for the top Pioneer score on the beam with a 9.8375. Senior Julie Ross was the top Pioneer on the Bars with a 9.8875. Karr finished 4th in the all-around.
The Pioneers, on ESPN 2, had a tough draw with the beam as their first event. Clearly, the most difficult apparatus early in a competition, the Pioneers had to battle nerves but got off to a solid but not great start. The rest of the semifinals, Denver scrambled to catch up to OU, Utah, and UCLA – teams that all had exceptional performances. The Pioneers were especially strong on the bars, scoring a 49.30, but it wasn’t enough, finishing 5th out of 6 programs in Semifinal 1.
The Pioneer squad, under head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart, stood up to the pressure and represented the University in style. Seniors Julia Ross and Rachel Fielitz were in their final meet and led the program to new heights in their four years at DU. The team set new school records for a team score in the national semifinals on bars, beam, and floor while earning the second-highest mark on vault, capping off one of the most successful seasons the program has ever seen. But, their competitors were deep and talented, too.
The Pioneers will be returning nearly a full squad next season and will be led by Maddie Karr. The future looks great for Denver gymnastics. Next year, they just might be ready to take the next step into the Super 6 finals, and maybe a national title.