DENVER - The No. 13 University of Denver gymnastics team combined for the fourth-best score in program history, a 197.200 in-front of a sold out crowd on Saturday at Hamilton Gymnasium. Arizona State finished second with a 195.675 and Illinois State rounded out the field with a 194.275.
"I thought we did a wonderful job staying in the moment tonight, one person at a time, one routine at a time and one event at a time," head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart said. "I was really proud of Ellese (Sakai-Hart) as she upgraded her first tumbling pass on floor and scored a 9.900 (career-high). I thought we had great energy throughout. The crowd was absolutely amazing tonight, and I really hope we can create a similar atmosphere inside this building on our Senior Day next Saturday."
Junior Moriah Martin (Lake Mary, Fla.) was just shy of her career-high in the all-around on Saturday, with a season-high 39.475, in her sixth all-around appearance of the campaign. Sophomore Nina McGee (Cincinnati, Ohio) went 9.850 or higher on all three of her events as well, including a career-high 9.925 on bars and a career-high 9.975 on floor. Junior Kaitlin Moorhead (Palo Alto, Calif.) added a 9.850 on vault and a career-high 9.925 on floor.
The Pioneers opened the meet with a 49.175 on vault, led for the seventh time this season by Martin. Denver's junior all-arounder recorded a 9.925, while Moorhead continued her impressive 10-meet season on the apparatus with a 9.850. Senior Simona Castro (Santiago, Chile) was third in Denver's lineup, and she tallied a 9.825. Redshirt-senior Brianna Springer (Arvada, Colo.) gave Denver its fourth score of 9.800 or higher in the opening rotation (9.800).
After notching its sixth-best bars score in program history a week ago, the Pioneers combined for a 49.325 on Saturday night, their fourth-best score in school history. Consistency was the theme of the rotation as Castro started off the event with her second 9.825 of the evening. Freshman Emily Barrett (Norman, Okla.) followed that up with a 9.825 of her own. Junior Emily Warfield (Lafayette, Colo.), who transferred from Arizona State after her freshman campaign, recorded a career-high 9.875 against her former squad. Springer and Martin turned in matching 9.850s, and McGee anchored and led the bars lineup with the aforementioned career-high 9.925.
Sophomore Ellese Sakai-Hart (Aptos, Calif.) started Denver's beam rotation off with a career-high 9.850. Martin followed that up with her third score of 9.850 or higher on the evening (9.850). Springer would go on to add a 9.825, junior Jorie Hall (Denver, Colo.) scored a 9.875 and McGee tallied a 9.850. DU combined for its sixth-highest beam score in program history, a 49.250.
"I'm a bit overwhelmed right now," Martin said. "I think we did a great job of staying in our bubble during the meet and focusing on one routine at a time. After doing really well on bars, we went to beam, which is a make-or-break event for us. We stayed together during that entire rotation, and then we brought it home on floor."
McGee anchored and led the fourth rotation as well, notching the sixth-highest individual score in program history with a 9.975. Denver combined for its seventh-best floor score with a 49.450 to lead all events on Saturday night. Moorhead added a 9.925 and Sakai-Hart, with her new pass, topped her career-high by 0.050 with a 9.900. Martin added a 9.850 and Hall recorded a 9.800 to round out Denver's counting scores in the final rotation.
"This has been a really exhilarating night," McGee said. "This team has seemed to grow together and achieve new heights every single week, and this was just the latest performance in that growth. From the beginning of the season, to this point in the season, I've learned to calm down and take a deep breath before my routines, and I had a lot of fun on floor tonight in-front of this great home crowd."
Denver will make its quickest turnaround of the season this week, as the Pioneers make the short drive to Colorado Springs, Colo., for a dual meet on Monday at Air Force. The meet is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. MT.
NOTES: Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber made an appearance at the meet, attracting many club teams from around the Denver area.
-EXPERIENCE DENVER ATHLETICS-
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