DENVER - The No. 13 University of Denver gymnastics squad finished first at the Winterfest quad to earn the Western Athletic Conference regular season title on Saturday at Hamilton Gymnasium. The Pioneers (11-2, 4-0 WAC) combined for a 195.800, topping No. 16 Boise State's (8-2, 0-1 WAC) score of 194.525. Rutgers (7-10) finished third with a 193.925, while Utah State (3-8, 0-3 WAC) rounded out the four-team field with a score of 192.150.
"I thought it was a really great competition with four strong teams tonight," said head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart. "Certainly it's nice that we are able to drop one score (195.125 at Arkansas) and count this score tonight (in Denver's RQS). We had some people out with some injuries tonight, and I'm really happy with how the rest of the girls stepped up."
The Pioneers were without junior all-arounder Melodie Pulgarin Linero (Barcelona, Spain), who will miss the next 3-4 weeks with a calf injury suffered last Saturday at Illinois-Chicago. Nevertheless, junior Moriah Martin (Lake Mary, Fla.) led Denver with a 39.250 in the all-around and sophomore Nina McGee (Cincinnati, Ohio) won two individual event titles to help Denver to its first WAC regular season title.
"We're honored to clinch the WAC regular season title, but more importantly we look forward to what should be a great conference meet at Southern Utah with all six teams in March," Kutcher-Rinehart said. "With that being said, our team's biggest focus is to continue to stay in the moment and get better each and every day in the gym."
Denver opened the meet with its fourth-straight score over 49.000 on vault, finishing with a 49.175 to kick-off the evening. As she has done three times this season, freshman Emily Barrett (Norman, Okla.) got the night started with a 9.800 on vault to jump-start the rotation. Junior Kaitlin Moorhead (Palo Alto, Calif.) turned in her eighth-straight score over 9.850 on vault to begin the year, tying a season-high with a 9.900. Martin anchored the rotation with a 9.950, 0.025 shy of her career-high 9.975 that she tied at Illinois-Chicago last week. DU's vault score was its sixth over 49.000 to begin the campaign.
The Crimson and Gold followed up that rotation with a 48.725 on bars. McGee won her first of two events, tying a career-high with a 9.900 in her first of three routines on the evening. Senior Simona Castro (Santiago, Chile) was second on the team with a 9.775. Denver took a 0.600 lead over Boise State for the top spot at the meet at the midway point.
McGee won the individual beam title as well, matching her bars score with a beam career-high of 9.900. Junior Jorie Hall (Denver, Colo.) quickly put her fall on beam last week behind her to tally a 9.875 on the apparatus on Saturday, finishing in a tie for second on the event. Denver combined for a 48.850 in its third rotation.
Martin and Hall turned in matching 9.850s to lead the Pioneers in the fourth rotation. McGee added a 9.825 and sophomore Ellese Sakai-Hart (Aptos, Calif.) inked a 9.775 helping the Pioneers to a 49.050, their fourth-straight score over 49.000 on the event.
Denver will head to No. 25 West Virginia for a quad meet with Temple and George Washington next Sunday at 12 p.m. MT.
-EXPERIENCE DENVER ATHLETICS-
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