DU Gymnastics team looks great, but can’t catch #1 Oklahoma Sooners

The DU gymnastics team improved its season high team score by over two tenths of a point at their fourth meet of the season on Sunday afternoon in Magnus arena. (Can we call it that in honor of Chrona’s shutout Friday night?!) The gymnastics team score was 197.425. For comparison, the highest team score last year for DU was 197.6. Not there yet, but this DU gymnastics team is improving week over week. We even saw the return of graduate student, Lynnzee Brown, to the vault lineup, which has her back on three of four events after last year’s season ending achilles tendon injury. DU hit season high team scores on both bars (49.4) and floor (49.4).  But, even the Pioneers very best meet wouldn’t touch the Oklahoma Sooner’s whopping 198.425 team score. Oklahoma is just that good, which is why they are ranked #1.

Today’s meet was a “Blackout” and DU encouraged fans to wear all black. Unfortunately most of the crowd missed the memo to wear black, so the blackout effect didn’t work. But the Pioneers debuted brand new all black competition leotards. They were gorgeous! I hope we see these for more of the team’s big events.

Today was also the alumni meet. In attendance were many former DU gymnasts, including 2016 NCAA floor champion, Nina McGee. Shout out to all of those ladies in attendance!

From a fan experience standpoint, we got our tailgate-worthy, flag wearing, slightly more gymnastics savvy crowd hype guys back. This week the flags they wore around their shoulders had Denver written in rhinestones. Sparkles! They got some official printed “Let’s Go DU” signs to help the crowd get into the meet. They had their lacrosse sticks at the ready…? About the only thing they did that got the crowd really loud was to throw t-shirts. I guess they are trying, and they were respectful. What was missing today was the student section. It looked like only about 20 showed up. What gives? But the Denver gymnastics community loves this team and it shows!

In a dual meet format, teams alternate competitors such that all eyes are on each gymnast as she performs. This meet started with Denver on vault and Oklahoma on bars.  For the first time in years (I think since 2016, but don’t quote me), Denver had four vaults with 10.0 start values. The Pioneers have had a lot of improvements on this event since last year. Denver made a last minute lineup change to put in Freshman, Mila Brusch in the lead off spot. Her and Junior Bella Mabanta both performed full-twisting Yurchenko vaults. The remaining four vaulters performed Yurchencko one-and-a-half vaults. Form breaks and steps on landings hurt the team today, but lots of potential and past performances this year make me very hopeful for the rest of the season.

Oklahoma started on bars with their signature huge sets with huge scores. Four of the five counted scores on bars for the Sooners were 9.9 or higher.

Next rotation had Denver on bars and Oklahoma on vault. Denver Freshman, Kiley Rorich made her collegiate debut with a 9.9 and proved she deserves her spot in the lineup! Junior Jessica Hutchinson also scored a 9.9, and the rest of the team was in the 9.8 range.

Oklahoma’s vault lineup had six 10.0 start value vaults. That bump in start value allowed them to pull away from Denver even with small form faults and steps.

Third rotation put Denver on Beam and Oklahoma on floor. I must say, Oklahoma is transcendent on floor.  Their tumbling goes above and beyond what is required to earn 10.0 start values. Their music and choreography are mesmerizing. They are crowd-pleasers for sure. It was a great showcase of excellent gymnastics!

Denver’s lead-off on beam was Lynnzee Brown, who was PERFECTION…for a 9.9. I don’t know where the deduction was, but I wasn’t getting paid to find faults. Sophomore Momoko Iwai had an uncharacteristic day on beam with a fall on her tumbling series and a missed connection after her aerial cartwheel. She is normally great on this event, so I have no doubt she’ll shake this off. After that, DU had 4 hit routines, allowing them to drop Iwai’s low score.

The final rotation of the night was Denver on floor and Oklahoma on Beam. Both Graduate Student Alexandria Ruiz and Junior Rylie Mundell hit season high scores of 9.875 and 9.925 respectively. DU put up two 9.9s from Juniors Bella Mabanta and Jessica Hutchinson. Still missing from the floor lineup is Lynnzee Brown. Fingers crossed for her continued recovery!

The highlight of the night came in the form of a 10.0 on beam from Oklahoma Senior Ragan Smith. Smith was an alternate on the 2016 US Olympic gymnastics team. She capped off an Oklahoma beam lineup that counted five scores of 9.9 or higher. And that’s how they got to be #1.

Top photo courtesy Oklahoma Athletics

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