DU Athletics continued to compete through the six-week winter break with hockey, skiing, gymnastics, basketball and swimming and diving attending and hosting events.
DU’s Nordic ski team earned a first place finish in the sprints for the women and a second place finish on the men’s side at the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Anchorage. After finishing ninth in the freestyle 10k on Jan. 3, junior Jasmi Joensuu (Kuortane, Finland) turned things around on Jan. 5, scoring first place with a time of 3:23.88. Skiing for the Pioneers on the women’s side was sophomore Kristine Karrsrud (Oppland, Norway), who earned eighth place. In the freestyle sprint Karrsrud raced for a finish of 3:34.34.
“Today was a lot of fun,” said Joensuu. “I have felt really good the last couple days, so I knew that I could have a good race today. The podium was a little surprise though.”
DU’s hockey team fell to the Miami University RedHawks 4-3, on Jan. 5 at Steve Cady Arena. Denver outshot Miami, 47-19 but was unable to establish a lead in the game. Dylan Gambrell (Bonney Lake, Wa.) scored twice and junior defenseman Blake Hillman (Elk River, Minn.) recorded three assists.
“Special teams were huge and we didn’t come back hard enough to our net,” Denver’s head coach Jim Montgomery said. “Their first two goals are rebound goals and they’re beating us to the net. Our effort and intensity for 98 percent of this game was really good and it shows how slim the margin of error is. If you want to be successful, we can’t have guys thinking that the play is done. You have to play right to the whistle.”
The No. 8-ranked women’s gymnastics team opened its 2018 season on Jan. 6 with a trip to Arizona. 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 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.
DU’s women’s basketball team struggled early against Utah Valley, but a strong second half quickly changed things around, as the Pioneers won 72-53 inside Hamilton Gymnasium on Jan. 2. DU improved to a 9-7 record, while the Wolverines fell to 6-9 in the 2017-18 season.
Support your Pioneers at home this upcoming weekend as the women’s basketball team will face South Dakota State at 7 p.m. in the Hamilton Gymnasium on Thursday, Jan. 11, and North Dakota State at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 13. On Sunday, Jan. 14, the women’s gymnastics team will take on Air Force in Magness arena starting at 2 p.m.