ST. LOUIS – The No. 7-ranked University of Denver women’s gymnastics team tallied a 196.475 in the NCAA National Championship semifinals on Friday, shattering the program record for highest team score at nationals. The previous high was 195.575, set in 2007.
The Pioneers also set new school records for team score in the national semifinals on bars, beam and floor while earning the second-highest mark on vault, capping off one of the most successful seasons the program has ever seen.
“Again, we had another solid, consistent night and didn’t have to count a fall,” head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart said after the meet. “It was difficult being in the first semifinal and starting on beam, and it think the nerves showed a little. But we responded with the same focus and aggressiveness that we’ve had all season. “We had great floor and bars rotations. Just like we have done all season long, we overcame adversity and showed grit and mental toughness and determination.”
The team opened the meet on beam with three Pioneers sharing a team-high 9.8375: freshman Maddie Karr (Stillwater, Minn.), freshman Sam Ogden (Allen, Texas) and sophomore Kaitlyn Schou (Orlando, Fla.). Their matching scores of 9.8375 is now the fifth-best beam score at the NCAA National Championships by a DU gymnast. Senior Julia Ross (Henderson, Nev.) added a 9.7625 while freshman Courtney Loper (West Des Moines, Iowa) earned a 9.7125.
Following a bye in the second rotation, DU moved to floor with all five counted scores going above 9.800. The team’s final tally of 49.2375 is the program’s highest-ever on floor at NCAA semifinals. Karr again led the Pioneers with a 9.8875—the third-highest floor score at the NCAA National Championships in program history and only behind scores from Nina McGee, who won the floor title last year. Junior Nikole Addison (Fort Myers, Fla.) and Schou both tied DU’s sixth-best mark in the national semifinals with 9.850s. Ross added a 9.8375, Loper a 9.8125 and junior Claire Hammen (Loveland, Colo.) a 9.7375.
Denver only competed with five student-athletes on vault—as it did for the first five meets of the season. A near-stuck vault from Karr gave her a team-high 9.8875, which becomes the program’s third-highest vault score in the national semifinals, and she finished the semifinal tied for fifth place. Ross posted a 9.800 with another near-stick for the Pioneers. Addison posted a 9.775, and Schou and senior Rachel Fielitz (Walden, N.Y.) earned matching 9.750s.
The Pioneers finished the meet on bars with their highest event score of the meet with a 49.300—nearly five tenths higher than the previous school record at the national semifinals. In the final routine of her spectacular career, senior Ross posted the team’s highest score and tied for the fifth-best overall on the event with a 9.8875—matching the second-highest individual score in program history at the NCAA National Championships. Karr was next in line with a 9.875 while sophomore Claire Kern (Charlotte, N.C.) scored 9.8625 in the lead-off spot. Ogden and sophomore Diana Chesnok (Charlotte, N.C.) tallied a 9.850 and 9.825, respectively.
Karr’s final all-around score was 39.475 while Ross finished with a 39.2875, their scores becoming the second- and fourth-highest all-around tallies in DU Gymnastics history at the NCAA National Championship. After the first semifinal, Karr stood in fourth overall and Ross was No. 13.
DU finished in fifth, matching the best semifinal finish in program history. Oklahoma (197.725), UCLA (197.500) and Utah (197.050) advanced to the Super Six while Washington (196.5625) finished fourth and Oregon State (196.3625) finished sixth.
“We’re so proud of our seniors,” Kutcher-Rinehart added. “Julia had an outstanding meet, hitting four-for-four at nationals to finish a successful senior year where she competed in the all-around every meet. Rachel finished her career with a great season and her vault title at regionals two weeks ago. Leah Lomonte’s bars performance today was not what she was expecting, but she’s considering coming back for a fifth year of eligibility where she’ll have more opportunities to excel on bars.
“We’re right there. We plan to capitalize on this performance and build on it next year. This year solidified Denver Gymnastics as one of the nation’s elite teams. We have a strong group of athletes returning next year, and we have a tremendous freshman class coming in. The future is very bright.”