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Setting the Standard: Gymnastics Eyes Return to National Championships

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Jordyn Reiland


Jordyn Reiland writer

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The team is targeting its first back-to-back trips to the NCAA National Championships since the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Abbie Thompson on the beam

Senior Abbie Thompson

The University of Denver gymnastics team is looking to set a standard as it targets its first back-to-back trips to the NCAA National Championships since the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Reaching that next step on a consistent basis is part of the “championship mentality” that head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart hopes to instill in her gymnasts.

“I think people have this underdog mentality surrounding the team, but I think that it's slowly starting to dissolve and going to [the national championships] multiple years in a row will really contribute to that,” senior and co-captain Rylie Mundell says.

The No. 6-ranked Pioneers will first have to compete in the Berkeley Regional, marking the team’s 25th consecutive appearance. Denver, which received a first-round bye, will square off in the first session of the NCAA Regional Second Round in Berkeley at 2 p.m. on Friday.

Denver has grown into its identity throughout the season as the team has overcome various challenges, but what’s resulted is a strong, resilient group heading into the postseason, Kutcher-Rinehart says.

Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart
Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart

“I think we're on a trajectory that we can peak at the right time,” she adds. “I do think that [the obstacles and challenges] really seasoned them and helped them be flexible and adaptable, and I think that is one of the reasons they’re stronger now.”

DU reached its second highest ranking to finish a completed season in program history last year (No. 8) after the team’s sixth appearance at nationals—coming only behind the 2019 team, who finished No. 4.

“[The gymnasts that have come before us] raised the bar, and if we continue to raise it each year, I think people won’t say, ‘Oh, it’s kind of surprising that Denver’s at nationals.’ They’ll be like, ‘No, Denver is expected to be at nationals,’” senior Abbie Thompson says.

The team is coming off a record-breaking performance, scoring 197.975 at the Big 12 Championship last month—the highest road score, Big 12 Championship score and postseason score in school history.

Before that, DU ended its regular season with a win at Michigan and a first-place finish at a quad meet hosted by Missouri.

“We have shown consistent growth, which is a really positive sign that we're doing everything in the best way possible for this team and who we are this year,” Mundell says.

Rylie Mundell
Senior and co-captain Rylie Mundell

Mundell was named the Big 12 Event Specialist of the Year and freshman Madison Ulrich was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Senior and co-captain Jessica Hutchinson, senior Bella Mabanta and sophomore Mila Brusch were named to the All-Big 12 Championship Team.

Hutchinson is also the first DU gymnast to finish the season ranked in the top eight on four events in one regular season.

As the team looks to continue its building success later this week in Berkeley, Thompson says the team will maintain its “calm, confident energy” that has been key throughout the season.

“We talk about controlling our own destiny, and we want to give people no doubts—and I feel like we’re doing that,” she says.

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