Athletics & Recreation

Gymnastics team achieves sixth best finish in program history

Senior Moriah Martin advanced to the National Semifinals for the third consecutive year, finishing seventh in the all-around in Session I of the championships. Photo courtesy of DU Athletics

Senior Moriah Martin, far right, advanced to the National Semifinals for the third consecutive year, finishing seventh in the all-around in Session I of the championships. Photo courtesy of DU Athletics

The No. 18 University of Denver gymnastics team rallied at the end of the year, posting two of its best meets in the final weeks of the season. The Pioneers finished with a regional qualifying score of 196.205, the sixth highest in program history. Denver won the inaugural Mountain Rim Gymnastics Championships (MRGC) before finishing third at the 2014 NCAA Washington Regional. Senior Moriah Martin advanced to the National Semifinals for the third consecutive year, finishing seventh in the all-around in Session I of the championships. Martin went on to repeat as an All-American, earning second team honors in the all-around.

“There were four great things that happened in the last quarter of our season to build on for the future: a fantastic senior night in Magness Arena; winning the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Championships; finishing higher than we were seeded at Regionals; having another All-American in the all-around; and counting only one fall, one time, throughout the course of the season,” head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart said. “This senior class has showed tremendous leadership this season, demonstrating consistency and confidence during every meet and practice.”

En route to winning the MRGC Championships, Denver’s vault corps broke the school record, posting a 49.475 at the meet. Martin and classmates Kaitlin Moorhead and Melodie Pulgarin Linero joined junior Nina McGee, sophomore Emily Barrett and freshman Rachel Fielitz in posting six scores over 9.800 to top the previous record of 49.425. Denver went on to win the MRGC title with a season-high 196.925, the seventh highest team score in school history.

On Jan. 31, Denver posted its highest scores of the season on bars and beam, while bringing in a 196.550 on the road at BYU. The bars score was the seventh highest in school history.

In front of a sold-out crowd in Hamilton Gymnasium, Denver continued its winning streak, beating Southern Utah and North Carolina State. This would be Denver’s only home meet in the month of February, as they would be on the road for the four straight weeks to follow. The Pioneers ended with a home record of 6-0, extending their undefeated win streak at home to 18-0.

Pulgarin Linero and McGee hit career-highs on beam, posting matching 9.900’s in a victory over Michigan State on Feb. 28. As the road stretch ended, Denver honored its five seniors while posting a 49.525 on the floor — a season high and the school’s sixth highest floor score in history. The Pioneers earned a 196.725, a season high at the time, to improve to 10-3 closing out the regular season. The meet was held in Magness Arena in front of 2,647 fans, the highest attendance the Pioneers have seen since they hosted Georgia, BYU and Air Force in January 2011.

Six Pioneers were named as All-MRGC, bringing home 11 total honors. McGee led the Pioneers, earning three First Team honors — all-around, beam and floor. Martin brought home a First Team All-MRGC award in the all-around and on vault, and Fielitz joined Martin as a First Team vaulter and Moorhead on Second Team. Senior Jorie Hall was named First Team on beam after winning the individual event title on beam. Hall, Moorhead and junior Ellese Sakai-Hart rounded out the Pioneers all-conference awards as they were named Second Team on floor.

The Pioneers were placed in the Washington Regional, where they faced No. 4 Alabama and No. 9 Nebraska, as well as Boise State and BYU. The Pioneers finished third, a spot higher than they were seeded. Martin advanced to her third NCAA Nationals Semifinal competition as an individual, continuing Denver’s streak of sending at least one individual to nationals in 15 straight seasons.

Denver’s seniors showed tremendous leadership throughout the season, as they accounted for 42 percent of all routines. Martin competed in all 12 meets, 10 of which were in the all-around. The senior won 18 individual event titles while turning in her last 24 (since Jan. 25, 2013) vaults of 9.800 or higher. In her career, Martin vaulted 55 times, showing 49 scores of 9.800 or higher.

Vault and floor specialist Moorhead brought in averages of 9.819 and 9.809 to be the only Pioneer this season to count 100 percent of her routines. Hall was a reliable beam and floor specialist, tying her career high on beam on two different occasions to help the Pioneers win in the final rotation. Pulgarin Linero helped anchor the bar lineup, competing in every meet on the event and posting nine routines over 9.800. Senior Paige Tollefson made two appearances as an exhibition on bars.

“It’s going to be difficult for me to say goodbye to this particular group of seniors,” Kutcher-Rinehart said. “They are very special to me and to this program as a whole. They are incredible competitors; we are going to have big shoes to fill. They have grown and matured as individuals and have collectively gone above and beyond. I have so much respect for these student-athletes because they have pushed through adversity and overcome obstacles to become leaders on this team.”

After only competing on three events as a sophomore, McGee was added into the vault lineup this season to become an all-around competitor. The junior posted team-high averages on beam and floor, earning a career-high of 9.925 on beam at the MRGC. McGee also posted a season high 39.475 at the conference championships. Fellow classmate Ellese Sakai-Hart competed in 11 meets, tallying two 9.875’s on floor to top off her junior season.

Denver’s sophomore class was anchored by Emily Barrett, Rachel Feeken, Maggie Laughin and Katie Menhinick. Barrett turned in eight vaults, recording a season high of 9.800 at the MRGC Championships. Feeken posted eight routines on bars, earning a season high 9.825 at BYU. Laughlin competed in eight meets on floor, posting a career high 9.900 on floor in the Pioneers’ final home meet on March 15. Menhinick was a reliable competitor on floor, seeing a career high of 9.825 at BYU.

The Pioneer freshmen showed promising improvement for years to come, as all three student-athletes were consistently in the lineup. Leah Lomonte made 28 starts, seeing action in all 12 meets on beam and seven on bars. Lomonte earned season highs of 9.850 on vault and beam and 9.800 on bars and floor. Fellow classmate Julia Ross showed consistent appearances on bars and beam, earning season highs of 9.850 and 9.800. Despite recovering from an injury for the first five meets of the season, Fielitz made an instant impact on the Pioneers’ vault lineup, posting her first collegiate vault of 9.875 on Feb. 14. Just five weeks later, the Walden, N.Y., native posted a new career high of 9.925, while helping Denver break the school vault record.

Throughout the season, two Pioneers were named Gymnasts of the Week and three were honored as Specialists of the Week in the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Championships. Martin was named Gymnast of the Week on three separate occasions, while McGee earned the honor once. McGee, Hall and Moorhead all were named Specialist of the Week as well.

The Pioneers will lose five seniors — Hall, Martin, Moorhead, Pulgarin Linero and Tollefson — but will add three signees, Nikole Addison, Brittney Franklin and Claire Hammen, to the 2014–15 roster. Kutcher-Rinehart and the rest of her staff are also excited to add Hall as the undergraduate volunteer assistant coach for the 2014–15 season.



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