Jan. 4, 2018
DENVER -- The No. 8-ranked University of Denver women's gymnastics team will open its 2018 season on Saturday with a trip to Arizona.
New Hampshire and Rutgers were originally scheduled to compete but will not travel to Arizona due to weather conditions on the East Coast.
The Pioneers are celebrating 20 years under the leadership of head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart. With Kutcher-Rinehart, Denver has advanced to NCAA Regionals in 19 consecutive seasons and to the NCAA National Championships four times including last season.
Denver enters the 2018 season ranked No. 8 in the preseason coaches' poll, which is the program's highest-ever preseason ranking. DU finished 2017 ranked a program-high No. 9 following a trip to the NCAA National Championships. Additionally, the Pioneers finished last season ranked inside the top 20 on all four events--including in the top 10 on vault, bars and beam.
Returning from the 2017 squad are nine student-athletes including postseason All-American sophomore Maddie Karr (Stillwater, Minn.), and seniors Nikole Addison (Fort Myers, Fla.), Claire Hammen (Loveland, Colo.) and Leah Lomonte (Katy, Texas).
Three freshmen join DU in 2018: Lynnzee Brown (Kansas City, Mo.), Emily Glynn (Longmont, Colo.) and Mia Sundstrom (Boulder, Colo.). All three are expected to make their collegiate debuts on Saturday.
DU's 2018 freshmen bring depth and difficulty to the team's line ups. Brown joins Denver from GAGE and was the 2017 JO Nationals runner-up in the all-around and on bars and floor. At the Pioneers' Crimson & Gold Exhibition on December 16, Brown posted a 39.375 in the all-around with 9.900s on bars and floor.
Both Glynn and Sundstrom are from Colorado's Airborne Gymnastics. Glynn qualified three times to JO Nationals, and placed in the top-three in the all-around and on bars and floor at the 2015 Region 3 Championships. She competed on vault, bars and beam at December's exhibition meet, hitting her beam set and adding a dance-through on floor.
Sundstrom is a two-time JO Nationals qualifier and a two-time runner-up at the Region 3 Championships. Like Glynn, Sundstrom also competed on vault, bars and beam at the December 16 exhibition, earning a 9.900 on bars and a 9.875 on beam. She, too, performed a dance-through on floor.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Vault: After competing for much of the 2017 season with only five vaulters, DU will look to add depth to the line up in 2018. Karr returns with a 10.0 start value and is joined by newcomers Brown and Glynn who also have 10.0 start values. Addison and junior Kaitlyn Schou (Orlando, Fla.), who competed in every vault line-up in 2017, are also slated to compete this season.
Bars: Two of DU's top bars scorers in 2017 return this year in Karr and junior Diana Chesnok (Charlotte, N.C.). Junior Claire Kern (Charlotte, N.C.) also returns as one of DU's most consistent bars workers over the last two seasons. Joining them will be all three freshmen, including Brown and Sundstrom who earned 9.900s at December's exhibition meet.
Beam: Karr and Schou, who had two of the team's top beam averages in 2017, will help lead the Pioneers in 2018. They will be joined by Addison, who competed in on beam in every meet last year, as well as Chesnok who returns to the line up. All three freshmen competed on beam and hit their routines at December's exhibition.
Floor: Like vault, Denver only competed with five student-athletes on floor for nearly every meet in 2017. In 2018, the Pioneer freshmen will look to add depth to the line up. DU's top floor scorers in 2017 return in Addison, Karr and Schou, each of whom set career highs last year (9.950 for Addison and Karr, and 9.900 for Schou).
EYE ON THE RANKINGS
DU holds the No. 8 spot in the preseason coaches' poll--a program record for highest preseason ranking. In 2018, DU will compete against 11 teams in the top 36, six of which are in the top 25.
Denver finished last season ranked No. 9 in the nation, a program record for highest final ranking. DU's final rankings of No. 7 on vault and No. 8 on bars were also school records. The Pioneers were also ranked No. 10 on beam and No. 16 on floor at the end of the 2017 season.
Returners Karr and Addison held individual national rankings to close out last year. Karr finished 2017 ranked No. 6 on vault and No. 10 in the all-around while Addison was tied for No. 18 on floor.
LAST TIME OUT
Denver competed at the 2017 NCAA National Championships, marking DU's fourth appearance overall and first since 2008. The Pioneers posted their highest-ever NCAA Nationals team tally with a 196.475 and finished a program-record ninth overall.
For the first time ever, DU had multiple postseason All-Americans in the same season in Karr (first-team on vault, second-team in the all-around and on bars) and now-graduated senior Julia Ross (second-team on bars).
The team's appearance at NCAA Nationals capped one of the program's most successful seasons. Four of the top 10 team scores in school history were set, and the program record on bars also fell. Denver spent nine weeks ranked inside the top 10 nationally in 2017 and was never ranked lower than No. 12.
Arizona finished its 2017 season at NCAA Regionals, placing fifth at the Lincoln Regional with a team score of 195.500. In the final national rankings, the Wildcats were just outside the top 25, finishing No. 26 overall and No. 14 on bars.
The Wildcats return 11 to their roster including senior Victoria Ortiz who finished last season tied for No. 23 in the nation on bars. John Court is the team's interim head coach after 19 seasons on the coaching staff.
This will be the 23rd meeting between Arizona and Denver. DU holds a 7-14-1 record all-time against UA and is 6-5-1 under Kutcher-Rinehart. The teams last met on March 14, 2015, and finished in a 196.850 tie in Tucson.
Season tickets for the 2018 season are now available online or by calling 303-871-4625. New for 2018, season ticket holders have the opportunity to reserve their seats in Hamilton Gymnasium with chair backs for $45. Season tickets without chair backs are $35. Single-meet tickets begin at $9 and are also available online.
PIONEER MOVEMENT: Fans interested in making a donation to the gymnastics program can do so by clicking here. Your contribution will make a direct impact on the success of YOUR Pioneers. Thank you in advance for your unwavering support of our student-athletes and their quest for excellence.
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