DENVER - The No. 20 University of Denver gymnastics squad inked a 194.700 to top No. 16 Penn State and Lindenwood on Saturday evening at Hamilton Gymnasium. Penn State finished with a 193.725, while Lindenwood scored a 185.925 in the first meet in its program history.
"I thought for the first meet, we did a very nice job," said head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart, who picked up her 250th career win on Saturday. "Certainly we had some weaknesses, and there are some things that we can improve on, but I was really happy with the difficulty of our routines tonight. This team is really competitive and has developed great mental skills, and I think that helped us out, especially on beam tonight."
Junior all-arounder, and 2012 NCAA Semifinal qualifier, Moriah Martin (Lake Mary, Fla.) finished second in the all-around with a 39.050. Sophomore Nina McGee (Cincinnati, Ohio), who missed her entire rookie campaign due to injury (shin), inked a 9.900 on bars and a 9.825 on floor in her long-awaited collegiate debut.
"I felt very blessed to be back on the floor tonight," McGee said. "It has been a long journey, and I'm blessed that I had this team behind me, giving me the ability to just go out there and have as much fun as possible."
Denver opened the 2013 season with a 48.800 on vault, led by a pair of juniors who were staples in the vault lineup of a year ago. Kaitlin Moorhead (Palo Alto, Calif.) tallied a team-high 9.850, while Martin scored a 9.825. Penn State led by 0.150 after its opening-rotation 48.950 on bars. Penn State's Madison Merriam would go on to win the vault competition with a 9.900.
McGee followed up her impressive performance at last month's Intrasquad with a 9.900 on bars to headline Denver's second rotation, and claim the first event title of her Pioneer career. Denver scored a 48.475 as a team on the event, and held a 0.675 lead over Penn State at the midway point. Martin added a 9.825 for the Pioneers in the second rotation, and freshman Maggie Laughlin (Scottsdale, Ariz.) inked a 9.775 in her collegiate debut.
The Pioneers were able to double their advantage in the third rotation, as the Crimson and Gold scored a 48.750 on beam, 0.145 higher than their 2012 season average. 2011 NCAA beam qualifier Jorie Hall (Denver, Colo.) led the meet on the apparatus with a 9.825. Sophomore Ellese Sakai-Hart (Aptos, Calif.) and junior Melodie Pulgarin Linero (Barcelona, Spain) added a pair of 9.775s. Denver led by 1.400 heading into the final rotation.
DU's fourth rotation was without three of its best on Saturday night, but the Pioneers showed their depth, and put together a 48.675 in their final rotation and secure the first two wins of the 2013 season. Springer, Pulgarin Linero and Castro were left off the floor lineup on Saturday night due to minor injuries. McGee turned in her second score over 9.800 on the evening (9.825), Martin tallied a 9.750 and Laughlin rounded out her Pioneer debut with a 9.725. McGee shared the floor title with Penn State's Sharaya Musser, who also won the all-around competition with a 39.300.
DU will return to Hamilton Gymnasium next Saturday (6 p.m. MT) to host in-state foe Air Force. Two-time Venezuelan Olympian and Pioneer alumna Jessica Lopez will be making a special appearance at the meet.
-EXPERIENCE DENVER ATHLETICS-
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