Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Gymnastics team to compete in nationals

For the first time since 2001, the University of Denver gymnastics team earned an automatic berth to the NCAA National Championships with its second place finish at the NCAA North Central Regional Championships on April 14 in front of 3,876 fans in Magness Arena. The Pioneers will compete in the NCAA National Championships April 26–28 in Salt Lake City.

The Pioneers scored a 195.825 and finished 1.45 points behind regional champion Georgia, who won the meet with a 197.275. Pioneers head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart was named North Central Region Coach of the Year, and Pam Wettig, senior associate athletic director, was named North Central Region Administrator of the Year.

“I’ve probably never been more happy in my life,” says senior Heather Huffaker. “Moving on to nationals my senior year is amazing.”

It was a close race between the Pioneers and Penn State at every event, but DU gained the edge by posting team scores higher than their season average on the uneven bars, the floor exercise and the balance beam.

Huffaker and junior Sasha Sullivan placed fourth and fifth respectively in the all-around competition with scores of 39.175 and 39.000.

The Pioneers got off to a strong start after competing in the floor exercise first and registering an impressive 49.150. All six gymnasts scored higher than their individual season averages on floor exercise. Sullivan led the team on the event with a score of 9.875, earning her fourth place overall. Huffaker tied for fifth, scoring 9.850, while Gretchen Goerlitz and Jessica Lopez tied for seventh place with scores of 9.825.

The Pioneers then moved onto the vault, scoring 48.950. Leading the way for the Pioneers was Huffaker, who placed fourth with a score of 9.875.

Junior Courtney Butler led the Pioneers on the uneven bars with an individual score of 9.850, contributing to the team score of 48.950. Butler placed fifth in the event while teammates Nikki Brown and Lopez finished in a four-way tie for ninth with a score of 9.800. Freshman Ellen McCarthy led Denver on the balance beam and tied for third overall with a score of 9.850.

The Pioneers finished up the meet with an impressive 48.775 on the balance beam, which put them just .050 point ahead of Penn State to give them second place in the regional and entry to the nationals.

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