Brown Pays Tribute to Pio Legends

On February 12, Magness Arena was treated to the return of Lynnzee Brown in the All Around for Pioneers gymnastics. It was her first time competing on the floor exercise since January 2022, when she suffered a seemingly career ending injury.  In 2022, she was in her fifth year at DU, having been granted an extra year of NCAA eligibility due to the pandemic.

As luck would have it, the NCAA allowed her to red shirt her 5th season due to the injury coming so early in the season. She was given an additional year of eligibility. If she chose to return for a 6th season, Lynnzee faced a nine month recovery from Achilles surgery. On May 12, 2022 Denver Gymnastics announced Lynnzee was up for the challenge and coming back for the 2023 season.

This is not Lynnzee’s first comeback from an Achilles tear. She suffered a similar injury (on her opposite leg) in 2020. She says of her recovery, “Doing it the second time kind of was a mental game, but I’m working to get where I want to be, and patience is the game this time.”

In comparison to her 2021 return, she says, “Last time I came out full swinging, and it was great, but they really need me later in the season, so that’s kind of a priority.”

Starting in week 1, we saw Lynnzee on only bars and beam. Then in week 4 she was added to the vault lineup. In week 6, she was substituted in last minute on floor, and the small (Super Bowl Sunday) crowd in Magness erupted like the arena was full.

Those in attendance were in for a real treat, as Lynnzee’s 6th DU floor routine pays tribute to former Pioneer greats Nina McGee and Nikole Addison. These two women helped pave the way for African American women in NCAA gymnastics. In a season that includes the NCAA’s first HBCU team (Fisk University, who Denver faced in week 2 at Michigan), Lynnzee has made a nod to those who came before her. After the meet at Michigan, Lynnzee was asked by Inside Gymnastics Magazine what it was like to share the floor with Fisk. She responded, “To be the majority felt so cool, to look out on the floor and see so many people that look like me. It’s just a huge step in the right direction, and younger me would be so proud to be here right now.”

So the music and choreography of her floor routine was fitting in many ways, in a historical year. And the debut of the routine just happened to be in Black History Month. And it was so joyful! Her performance felt like a tribute to gymnastics itself.

Nina McGee was the first NCAA champion in gymnastics from DU when she won the floor exercise in Nationals in 2016. Lynnzee Brown used that championship-winning routine to start off her own 2023 routine. Nina McGee helped change the shape of perfection and the look of NCAA choreography. Her style and strength were great, and her performance on floor put her on top. She too exuded joy on the floor. Perhaps that is part of why Lynnzee wanted to pay tribute.

Nikole Addison was a teammate of Lynnzee’s early in her DU career. Search up Nikole’s floor routines on YouTube and you’ll see Lynnzee dancing along with the choreography in the background. I’m sure that made memorizing this year’s choreography that much easier.

Check out the mash-up of the routines from these DU greats.

Now that Lynnzee has made her comeback on all four events, we’re looking forward to seeing how far she’ll go this year! On her goals for the season, Lynnzee has said, “Personally I just want to enjoy gymnastics. Not many people get to say they had their senior year three times.” Three times indeed. Let’s hope third time is a charm and we see Lynnzee and the Pioneers deep into the post season!

Photo: Courtesy of Denver Athletics.

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