Photo: Courtesy of Denver Gymnastics Twitter
The Denver Pioneer Gymnastics made program history as (#5)-seeded Pioneers rocked the NCAA Gymnastic Championships Friday in Fort Worth, Texas and when the smoke cleared, the Pioneers posted a 197.0375 score to beat nine-time NCAA Champion Georgia and Oregon State to join No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 UCLA and No. 3 LSU in Saturday night’s NCAA Gymnastics Finals (5 p.m. MT/ESPNU). DU had never made to the final 4 teams in program history.
“We are thrilled for this opportunity to advance,” head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart said in a press release. “I’m incredibly proud of our team and our student-athletes. They have continued to show tremendous character, competitiveness and consistency, and we are incredibly proud.”
Look, while we are not gymnastic experts at LetsGoDU with the knowledge to thoroughly analyze today’s performances, we do know a great thing when we see it.
With top-ranked Oklahoma cruising to a win and the top seed in the Pioneers’ evening semi final, DU was fighting off the Georgia Bulldogs and Oregon State for the final qualification spot in the Final Four, as UCLA and LSU had already qualified in the afternoon session. In the end, it came down the final rotation in the semi-final. Heading into the fourth and final rotation, Denver was tied with Oregon State for second with a 147.650. Senior and co-team DU captain Claire Kern lead off the bars rotation with a 9.8375 to set the tone for the Pioneers. Ruiz scored a 9.875 in the second spot while Mia Sundstrom and Emily Glynn followed with 9.850s. Lynzee Brown continued DU’s momentum with a 9.900, and Maddie Karr clinched the team finals berth with her 9.9125. The Pioneers were jubilant, and history was made.
This Denver team, the only private school in the finals, is making history against the elite blue-blood programs of gymnastics. Tomorrow, Denver will compete in their first gymnastics NCAA finals ever and has a chance, yet again, to create even more history. Should they win Saturday night, they would be the first women’s team at DU to win a national team title at the D-I level. And, despite the odds, nothing seems out of reach for this group. And even if they don’t win it, DU has served notice that it is an elite-level program.
— Denver Gymnastics (@DU_Gymnastics) April 20, 2019
Sophomore Lynnzee Brown earned a share of the NCAA Individual title on the floor exercise Saturday with a 9.950, the second NCAA individual title in DU history, following Nina McGee on Floor Ex in 2016.
Brown said in a press release that “I have had a little bit of mentorship from an alum – Nina McGee – and that’s really helped me. It’s brought out my personality. It’s brought out my confidence. So just having her support and having her tell me, ‘You know, you’re going to do this. I’m so proud of you,’ and just having her as a mentor has really been good for me.”
McGee was also there live in Fort Worth, cheering on her protege, Brown ( and the rest of the Pioneers) in the same arena where McGee won the floor ex title in 2016.
Confident junior Maddie Kerr provided the inspiration and solid results to help cement Denver’s trip to the finals along with her teammates Kaitlyn Schou, Alexandra Ruiz, Emily Glynn, Claire Kern, Mia Sundstrom, and Alexis Vasquez. Denver is a young squad who’s best chance for a title was seen by any as a year from now – but they do not want to wait until then.
What an outstanding accomplishment by DU Gymnastics and head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart, associate head coach Linus Gaveika, assistant coach Jay Hogue and volunteer assistant coach Jessica Lopez as well.
“I want to congratulate Denver because that was awesome,” Oklahoma Coach KJ Kindler told ESPN. “It’s great to have a new team in that final night. That’s what great about our sport — anything can happen. You can work your way up to the top. You can get there.”
And, they are not done yet.