DENVER - The University of Denver women's gymnastics squad posted a season-high score of 195.650 at the Burnsley Invitational on Saturday at Hamilton Gymnasium. Iowa State finished second with a 194.375 and Alaska-Anchorage rounded out the score sheet with a score of 188.050.
"I thought the girls did a great job tonight," said head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart. "We were out two athletes with Melodie (back) and Ellese (toe), and we are looking forward to getting them back in the lineup shortly. But for people who weren't normally in the lineup to step-up and deliver, I think it shows the character and teamwork of this team."
On a night where the Pioneers were short-handed due to injury, five Denver gymnasts took to the Vault in the first rotation and made sure that they didn't need to drop a score. All five Pioneers earned scores of 9.750 or higher in the rotation, led by sophomore Moriah Martin's (Lake Mary, Fla.) season-high 9.950. Sophomore Kaitlin Moorhead (Palo Alto, Calif.) matched her career-high for the third time this season, recording the fourth 9.800 on the apparatus in her career. At the end of the first rotation, Denver sat atop the leaderboard with a 49.050 as a team. Iowa State senior Celine Paulus also recorded a 9.950, tying Martin for the Vault title.
Martin won the Bars title with a career-high 9.825 to lead the Pioneers in the second rotation. Junior Simona Castro (Santiago, Chile) matched a career-high on Bars with a 9.775. Despite suffering a broken toe in training this week, freshman Ellese Sakai-Hart (Aptos, Calif.) set a new personal-best with a 9.750. The Crimson and Gold finished the second rotation with a season-high 48.950 on Bars.
A pair of freshmen saw their first collegiate action in the third rotation as Kayla Carlsen (Douglasville, Ga.) and Alix Angelopulo (Burlingame, Calif.) made their respective Pioneer debuts. Carlsen posted a 9.725 and Angelopulo was mobbed by her teammates after a clutch 9.750 performance in the final spot of the rotation. Senior Louise Mercer (Nottingham, England) added a 9.775 and Castro won the Beam title with a 9.850, each matching their career-bests on Beam. Denver finished Beam with a season-high 48.775.
"Alix and Kayla just did a great job," Kutcher-Rinehart said of the two freshmen. "This was an opportunity for them. We talk about when your opportunities present themselves to be ready, and I thought they did a great job with that."
Castro matched her career-high on an event for the third time on Saturday evening, with a 9.850 on Floor Exercise to open the fourth rotation. Martin also matched a career-high on the event with a 9.725. For the fourth time this season, sophomore Jorie Hall (Denver, Colo.) set a career-high on Floor, this time posting a 9.875.
The Pioneers will hit the road next weekend as the Pioneers take on BYU on Friday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. MT.