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Freshman Ellese Sakai-Hart
Courtesy: Clarkson Creative
Freshman Ellese Sakai-Hart
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Pioneers Finish Second at Winterfest Quad
Courtesy: Denver Athletics  
Release: 03/03/2012

DENVER - The No. 19 University of Denver women's gymnastics team suffered its second loss of the season by 0.1 points or less, finishing second to No. 24 West Virginia by a slim 0.075 margin at the Winterfest Quad meet on Saturday at Hamilton Gymnasium. The Pioneers combined for a 194.100, No. 13 Missouri finished third with a 194.025 and Western Michigan rounded out the scoring with a 193.825.

"It was obviously not our best Bars performance of the year, but I was really pleased with how we rallied, performing really well on Balance Beam and really well again on Floor" head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart said. "I really liked what I saw as far as the character of our team and how they responded on the last two events."

Reigning Verizon Western Athletic Conference Gymnast of the Week Moriah Martin (Lake Mary, Fla.) anchored the Pioneers Vault core with a 9.900, leading the Pioneers to a 48.825 in the opening rotation. Martin entered the meet tied for fifth in the nation in Vault RQS. Missouri's Rachel Updike won the event with a 9.950.The Pioneers led the four-team field after the first rotation, 0.125 points ahead of both Missouri and Western Michigan.

After tying Venezuelan Olympian Jessica Lopez for the third-highest score in school history last week, reigning WAC Event Specialist of the Week Louise Mercer (Nottingham, England) turned in an equally good performance this Saturday, but received a 9.875. Mercer shared the Bars title with the Tigers Mary Burke. The Pioneers posted a 47.275 in the event, and found themselves in fourth place after the second rotation. Western Michigan turned in a 48.550 on Vault, and put the upset alert on everyone's radar, as the Broncos took a 0.500 lead into the third rotation.

The Pioneers were not done, turning their meet around with two impressive rotations to climb back into contention. Junior Simona Castro (Santiago, Chile) won the Beam title with a 9.825 to lead the Pioneers to a 48.825 in the third rotation, Denver's second-highest Beam score of the season. Freshman Ellese Sakai-Hart (Aptos, Calif.) matched the career-high on Beam that she set last week, tallying a 9.800 and finishing in a tie for second in the event. WMU held onto the lead entering the fourth rotation, maintaining 0.225 edge over West Virginia.

The 13th ranked Pioneers Floor corps ended DU's meet with a 49.175.  Sophomore Jorie Hall (Denver, Colo.) tied a career-high with a 9.875, Martin and sophomore Melodie Pulgarin Linero (Barcelona, Spain) each added scores of 9.850 and Mercer tallied a 9.825, helping secure Denver's second-place overall finish. 

Denver posted the top team Beam and Floor scores of the evening. 

Burke took the All-Around crown with a 39.325, while Mercer and Martin tied for second with scores of 39.200.

DU will make its quickest turnaround of the season, as the Pioneers will join WMU at Air Force on Monday at 6 p.m. MT.

Individual and season tickets are on sale for the 2012 season. For information, please visit or call the Ritchie Center Box Office at (303) 871-2336.
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