Twenty One Year Journey Ends at Mountain Top

DU did not win a national gymnastics title Saturday night. The University of Oklahoma (198.3375), DU’s Big 12 Conference mate,  brought home the title with Denver settling into 4th place in their first NCAA Gymnastics Finals.

Still, Denver’s journey ended with the elite company of #1 UCLA, #2 Oklahoma and #3 LSU. Far from an ‘overnight sensation’,  Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart and her upstart program fought headwinds to build a regional powerhouse- 18 straight NCAA appearances. But, Saturday’s NCAA Gymnastics Final Four vaulted (pardon the pun) DU onto the national stage and into the NCAA gymnastics psyche. And these Pioneers just might be planting a flag next time.

This season featured sold out home meets, a #5 national ranking and a near miss at home against, then, #1 Oklahoma to set the tone leading up to Saturday night at the Fort Worth NCAA finals. But, the blue bloods had no intention of buckling to the Crimson and Gold newcomer crashing their party. And judges had to adjust as well. What to make of this Pioneer squad who talked about ‘battling’ and ‘fighting’ – inspired by Jay Bilas book, “Toughness: Developing True Strength On and Off the Court” to reinforce their consistency and execution?

Sure, some of the first-time jitters were there. But it was clear from the start to all who witnessed the finals – DU Gymnastics belonged. No longer just a regional power, DU visited the mountain top.

And next season could be even bigger for this relatively young Pioneers squad who will graduate only four seniors this season. This year’s team is the sum total of twenty plus years in the making – and now, an overnight sensation to nearly everyone – except themselves.