The global COVID-19 pandemic halted promising seasons for athletes and teams all over the world, and the University of Denver gymnastics team had its 2020 campaign cut short just like countless others.
But before that happened, several local-area gymnasts helped lead the Pioneers on a special run the likes of which the program had never seen before.
Mead alumnus Emily Glynn, Fairview graduate Mia Sundstrom and Broomfield High’s Grace Broadhurst all contributed significantly to the DU gymnastics program placing a program-best fourth at the 2019 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championship.
“I think it was super cool to start a process of creating this legacy,” Glynn said in a recent phone interview. “It really showed how much our hard work paid off and it was really rewarding. And to do it with a group of people I really care about and experiencing a dream that all of us had been working towards for a long time made it even more special.”
Glynn, Sundstrom and Broadhurst were all friends in high school. Though they didn’t compete for their high school teams, all three went to the same club gym at Airborne Gymnastics in Longmont. They even lived together along with several of their DU teammates last year.
In the 2019 team finals at nationals in Fort Worth, Texas, Sundstrom and Glynn both scored highly in multiple events. On top of the experience of competing at their collegiate sport’s highest level, both said it was even more special to do it for what they considered to be their local team and follow in the footsteps of predecessors like Jessica Lopez and Nina McGee.
“The program had been on the rise for a number of years,” Sundstrom said. “I grew up in Colorado and watched the program grow and get better. Obviously, 2019 was our breakthrough year and it was so special to celebrate with our team. But it was powerful to also be able to represent all the alumni and the people who came before us.
“We were definitely not the most talented group but we had the drive and the culture we needed to succeed. Nobody expected us to be in the Final Four but we recognized what we were capable of and the stars aligned for us to be in the position we ended up in.”
Ranked ninth the season prior, Sundstrom said the Pioneers’ 2019 team began to believe they were capable of something special when they beat Alabama for the first time early in the season. They went on to win regionals for the first time in the DU program’s history and also set several Pioneers scoring records. Sundstrom credited 22-year head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart for much of the team’s success.
“She takes none of the credit for everything she has done for the last 20-plus years, but she deserves everything,” Sundstrom said. “She has always been the perfect combination of a second mother and a coach for all of us and she’s always kept us grounded in our core and philosophy no matter if it’s after a win or a loss. She got the best out of us.”
Though it was an obvious disappointment to miss out on a 2020 campaign that ended abruptly with the Pioneers ranked seventh midseason, both Glynn and Sundstrom have one year of eligibility remaining.