Authored by LetsGoDU Contributor Jill Cattrysse-Larson
The Pioneers gymnastics team closed out their regular season at home with a quad meet versus #12 Oregon State, #18 Arkansas, and Nebraska. Thanks to a hockey sweep over Miami, gymnastics was in Magness. Had the hockey teams split games on Friday and Saturday, gymnastics on Sunday would have been in Hamilton. But the bad news about the scheduling was that gymnastics tickets didn’t go on sale until late Saturday night. What should have been an easy sellout of Magness (we had four Olympians in the house after all), ended up being maybe half full.
Four takeaways from Sunday’s gymnastics meet at Magness:
1) Colorado judges don’t give 10s. Even when the gymnastics is perfect. (Yes, I know this is a consistent theme of mine.)
2) Arkansas Razorbacks pulled off an upset in the last rotation with a program-high 49.5 points on the vault.
3) That incredible time when DU sophomore, Rylie Mundell shared the podium with Olympic gold medalist, Oregon State freshman, Jade Carey!! The two tied for first place on vault with 9.95 scores.
— Denver Gymnastics (@DU_Gymnastics) March 13, 2022
4) Despite injuries that would have derailed nearly any gymnastics team, Denver qualified for their 23rd –straight NCAA regional berth under head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart.
The last time Denver gymnastics faced off against Oregon State was in 2002 (DU won 194.375 to 192.4). This year OSU came back as the #12 team in the nation with Olympic gold medalist Jade Carey (freshman) at the helm. Carey has recorded 10.0s this season on both floor and bars. Carey’s win in the All-Around (AA) on Sunday was highly predictable. She scored 9.95 on all four events for at least a share of every event title. Denver sophomore Jessica Hutchinson lost her first AA title with a 39.55 (after five wins in a row), coming in 2nd to Carey who scored a 39.8. As a comparison, Hutchinson’s highest AA score thus far is 39.625.
Perhaps the shining moment of this competition was Jade Carey’s floor routine. Carey is the reigning Olympic champion on the floor exercise. She opened her routine with a sky-high double-twisting double back (called a “double double” in gymnastics lingo). Few collegiate athletes ever complete a skill this difficult in NCAA and none have done it as cleanly as Carey. It looked like a walk in the park. I only wish more folks had come to Magness to see it.
The real surprise of the meet was the Razorbacks’ win. They had an outstanding vault rotation to end the meet. The Razorbacks went into the fourth rotation 0.2 down from the top and in 3rd place. But they pulled out some impressive stuck landings. Their sixth and last competitor, Kennedy Hambrick, landed a huge yurchenko one-and-a-half vault and stuck the landing. The crowd chanted for a 10. And the judges gave a 9.925. In fact, four gymnasts on the Razorbacks’ lineup scored 9.925s. But it was enough to push them ahead of both Denver and OSU for the win.
A full-strength Denver team could have won this meet pretty handily. But as it is, the Pios are missing all three graduate students to achilles injuries – plus sophomore Abbie Thompson. At first, it appeared Thompson would be rejoining the lineup after missing five weeks due to injury. She warmed up on beam and floor, and was on the original lineup posted for bars, but she did not compete in any events. Denver wound up competing with only five athletes on three events (vault, bars, and floor). That meant that all five scores would count. It says a lot about the mental toughness of these athletes that everyone hit. Every routine. Denver can be proud of this third-place finish because they each did their jobs. This meet also qualified Denver into one of the top 16 seeded spots in NCAA regional competition, which also means they get a bye on day one of their selected regional competition.
Oh and those four Olympians, I mentioned? Of course, there was Denver’s own alumna and three-time Olympian for Venezuela, Jessica Lopez. Lopez is no longer an assistant coach at DU, but is nearly always present at home meets. (As a side note, Lopez has taken up judging at the Junior Olympic level. Perhaps she can discuss the lack of 10s with her new colleagues.) Then there was Arkansas head coach, Jordan Wieber, and her 2012 Olympic teammate, assistant coach Kyla Ross. And, of course, Jade Carey who competed in the most recent summer Olympics, taking gold on floor.
Final team scores were Arkansas 196.975, Oregon State 196.875, Denver 196.800, and Nebraska 195.750. With Denver’s score, they move down one spot in the national rankings to #15. Next weekend Denver hosts the Big XII Championships in Magness. In Gymnastics in 2022, the Big XII includes Denver, West Virginia, Iowa State, and Oklahoma. It’ll be a great meet to watch as Oklahoma is putting up the top scores in the nation. Last year Denver upset the Sooners to win the Big XII. It’s extremely unlikely that the Pios can repeat, but we should fill the arena to show them our support all the same! If you have never been to a meet, try it out – you’ll like it!