Free admission for all fans to annual Crimson and Gold Gymboree at 6 p.m. Saturday
Here's a Q & A session with Coach Kutcher-Rinehart
Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart is in her ninth season at the helm of the University of Denver gymnastics program, and her transformation of the team from a struggling program to a perennial top-15 Division I Nationals contender continues. Since arriving in 1999, Kutcher-Rinehart has led Denver to eight consecutive appearances in NCAA Regionals and helped the program become one that has defeated the likes of perennial NCAA Nationals teams such as Stanford, LSU, Oregon State, Oklahoma and Arizona State in the last eight seasons. In 2001, she led the team to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Championships and made believers out of skeptics that a small private school in Denver could compete alongside traditional collegiate gymnastics powers.
Kutcher-Rinehart has compiled an impressive 141-65-2 (.683) overall record in her eight seasons at Denver and has returned the once-proud Pioneer program back to prominence for gymnastics fans in Colorado. Her goal at Denver is simple, to become the first team ever to win national championships at both the Division II and Division I levels.
In the last four seasons, Kutcher's team has set team records on three events and broken the previous team record four times, including the school's first-ever score of 197 or higher, a feat they accomplished four times in 2004. Despite falling just short of a second team trip to Nationals in each of the last three seasons, Kutcher-Rinehart has helped guide six individuals to Nationals for a total of nine in her career, six more than the Denver program had in its first 16 years of Division I.
Last season, the Pioneers finished with their highest ranking since 2002 and recorded a school-record seven-meet winning streak in which the team went 11-0. DU also upset No. 12 Arizona State on Senior Night and went 20-8 overall, its most wins since 2000. The Pioneers finished fourth at the North Central Region Championships but finished the season ranked No. 16 thanks to their 195.250 score, the fourth-best score among non-advancing teams.
Kutcher-Rinehart lead her 2002 team to a 19-5 overall record that included wins over NCAA qualifiers Oregon State and LSU; and she nearly qualified her team for a second consecutive appearance in NCAA Nationals, losing out by .125 to both No. 2 Georgia and No. 6 Stanford in the first NCAA event ever held in Magness Arena.
The 2001 season stands as Kutcher-Rinehart's shining moment so far at Denver, as she led the Pioneers to their first-ever appearance at the NCAA National Championships, becoming the first small private school in NCAA history to qualify. The Pioneers got their first-ever berth by virtue of their second-place finish at the NCAA North Central Region Championships, nearly pulling off an unthinkable upset of a Utah team that had not lost on its home floor since 1979.
Though the Pioneers finished 12th in their first-ever trip to nationals, Kutcher-Rinehart coached her second consecutive individual All-American in then-freshman Ashley Shible, who just missed becoming Kutcher-Rinehart's first individual athlete to qualify for an event final. In addition, the Pioneers proved to the rest of the country that they deserved to be mentioned among the top Division I gymnastics programs.
In 2000, Kutcher-Rinehart had three all-around performers qualify for the national meet. In addition, Kutcher-Rinehart coached her first All-American, as Jenny Ebdon earned second-team honors on the floor exercise at the NCAA Championships.
In her first season with the Pioneers, Kutcher-Rinehart led Denver to a No. 16 final national ranking and a fourth-place finish at the 1999 NCAA Region 2 Gymnastics Championships, at the time, the highest finish at a Division I postseason competition. For her efforts, she was named Region 2 Coach of the Year in her first season as a head coach.
The Pioneers have finished among the top-25 teams in the country in each of the last seven seasons. Under her tutelage, the Pioneers have broken the team scoring record on every event - including a team total of 197.875 on February 14, 2004 - and each of the top 15 scores in school history have come under her watch. In 2004, the Pioneers set school marks on vault (49.425) and balance beam (49.525) and recorded the top two road scores in program history.
Kutcher-Rinehart was named the program's fourth head coach on August 17, 1998. She came to Denver from the University of Michigan, where she had been an assistant the previous five seasons. During her tenure at Michigan, the Wolverines won four consecutive Big Ten Conference championships (1994-97) and placed as high as second at the NCAA National Championships (1995).
In 1997, Kutcher-Rinehart was a key component in Michigan putting out its then best-ever balance beam performance at the NCAA Championships with three gymnasts earning First-Team All-America honors. Kutcher-Rinehart was a two-time recipient of the University of Michigan's Louise Cooley Sutherland award as the top women's assistant coach. She is active as a member of the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for Women (NACGC/W) and has previously served as the awards chairperson for the organization. In addition, she has served as a member of the NCAA Gymnastics Committee.
An all-around competitor with the University of Florida women's gymnastics squad from 1989-92, Kutcher-Rinehart helped the Gators to four straight top-12 NCAA Championship finishes. The Gators' best national finish during her career was sixth in 1991.
Her final season at Florida included five 9.90 floor exercise scores, including one for third place at the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships. Kutcher-Rinehart helped Florida to the 1989 Southeastern Conference Championship with a third-place finish on the vault. She was a 1992 Academic All-Southeastern Conference Honor Roll selection. Kutcher-Rinehart served the 1993 season as an undergraduate coach at Florida while finishing her degree.
A native of North Miami Beach, Fla., Kutcher-Rinehart holds a bachelor's degree in communications from Florida (1993), and earned a master's degree in athletic administration from Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich. (1996). She is a professional member of USA Gymnastics.
Kutcher-Rinehart and her husband Todd Rinehart, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Enrollment at DU, celebrated their sixth anniversary last August. The couple has two children, William (3), and Ella, born in July 2004. The family resides in Aurora.
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