DU Gymnastics Advances to the Elite 8

Photo: Denver Twitter

#5 Denver Gymnastics swept the NCAA Corvallis Regional to advance to the Elite 8 in Ft. Worth, Texas. The Pioneers stunned #4 Oregon along with #12 Boise State and #15 Oregon State to win the regional championship, a first for the DU program. This season also marks the 16th straight NCAA gymnastics tournament appearance for the Pioneers.

The Pioneers will be joined by UCLA, Michigan, Oklahoma, Georgia, LSU, Utah, and Oregon. The 2019 NCAA National Championships will be held April 19-20 at the Fort Worth Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Denver will compete in the semifinals on Friday, April 19. 

The University of Denver has competed at the Gymnastics National Finals five times but this is clearly Denver’s deepest squad. Junior Maddie Kerr is the inspirational leader but Denver got contributions from a deep squad which includes  sophomore Lynnzee Brown, sophomore Mia Sundstrom, Kaitlyn Schou, freshman Alexandria Ruiz, senior Diana Chesnok, senior Claire Kern, and freshman Alexis Vasquez .

If DU wins in Ft. Worth, DU gymnastics would be the first all-female team to win a D-I national championship at the University of Denver. Also, Denver is the only private school to be competing in the national finals. However, the traditional gymnastics hierarchy will make it challenging to beat the tradition, depth and reputation of blue bloods like UCLA and Oklahoma. But Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart and her squad just keep making history.

2 thoughts on “DU Gymnastics Advances to the Elite 8”

  1. Ten years ago I took my niece to DU’s gymnastics camp. The number of girls who not only attended but had a great time, got exposure to the extremely welcoming student-athletes as well as Coach Kutcher-Rinehart, and then subsequently attended meets together was incredible. Unlike anything I had seen from DU, hockey lax and b-ball included. It doesn’t surprise me then to see them truly competing at the absolute highest level now. Program building is obviously a multifaceted effort but it builds upon recruiting and perception. Every girl in the region who competes in gymnastics has DU on their radar. Hats off to Coach and everyone else who continue to elevate the program. Breaking through just to be in the same company as these storied programs is impressive. Winning a National Championship will be another big step, but one that I truly believe is within the realm of possibility. Hopefully these women can enjoy what they have accomplished and go out with their best efforts! Proud to be a Pioneer!

  2. Historic season for DU gymnastics — winning an NCAA regional is something DU has never done before, and this squad has a depth to it that DU has never had before – a legit top 5 program. What’s impressive is that after a somewhat lackluster performance (in the 196s instead of the usual 197s this year) on the first night of the regionals, the Pios bounced back strong on the final night, getting into the 197s and punching their ticket as regional champions. Must have also been cool for Melissa to beat her alma mater, Florida, for the first time.

    Moreover, it’s not just the squad that’s been built here – it’s the bigger picture that the DU program has clearly outgrown the 2,800-seat Hamilton Gym into what is now a consistent 4,500- 6,000 spectator meet draw, moving squarely ahead of men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse in terms of butts in the seats. That’s impressive. While the public profile of gymnastics (and DU student interest) may not be yet as high as men’s lacrosse or men’s basketball’s interest level, the drawing power and revenue potential of gymnastics is a great opportunity for DU.

    The spectator market for little girls under age 14 and their parents (who have to drive them to the meet) was something of an untapped market, and DU has really built the youth gymnastics community in Denver over the last 20 years as core fan base. These (often upscale) little girls are also a prime future demographic for DU to convert into future students, long after the leotards are put away, and getting them on campus now is a great thing.

    While winning a national title for DU this year still seems unlikely, this given the sport is judged, (I’m sure the blue bloods get the benefits of that judging), at least DU is now firmly implanted in the national conversation. And that, as the only private to qualify from the elite 8, is really terrific. I’m sure if they can keep qualifying for the finals as a team over time, there may be opportunities to punch through for the big prize…

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