Attendance record adds to Utah's home victory
Having his team break the 16-year old attendance record was almost as satisfying for Utah coach Greg Marsden as Friday's victory itself.
The Utes drew a season-high 15,082 fans, the fourth-largest crowd in Utah history that gave them a home attendance average record of 13,861 for the season. The past record was 13,164 set in 1993.
Marsden has been as active promoting his sport as he has been coaching it. The reason for the increase this season he believes is the awareness the Utes have earned since hosting the 2007 NCAA Championships, the last three second-place finishes at the NCAAs and the affordability of the gymnastics tickets.
While he was beaming with satisfaction afterward, senior Nina Kim sounded humbled by the number of Utah's followers.
"It boggles my mind that we are here to do what we love to do, we get a free education and all these opportunities, and 15,000 people come to watch us," she said.
In the crowd
Among those watching the meet was Nastia Liukin , the gold medal all-around winner from the 2008 Olympics who is Kim's best friend.
The two trained together in Houston at the Liukin's father's gym, World Olympic Gymnastics Academy, from 2002 until Kim joined the Utes in 2006.
Kim traveled to Beijing for support, so Liukin decided several months ago to return the favor and reserved this weekend to come watch Kim, but didn't tell her until this week.
"I wanted to keep it a surprise," she said. "It meant a lot to me to have her there in Beijing."
Liukin has nine world championships, seven of them individual awards, to tie Shannon Miller for the most won by an American gymnast.
Liukin turned pro in 2004 and said she never seriously considered competing at the collegiate level, but did like the atmosphere of the Friday's meet.
"It looks like a lot of fun and being here is fun, but I'm very happy with my decision," she said.
Life has been a whirlwind for Liukin since she edged teammate Shawn Johnson by .60 for the gold medal. Tours and appearances have filled her schedule, but she is back in training now getting ready for the Visa Championships in August.
"It has been very busy and crazy, but I've enjoyed all of it," she said. "Now it's time to get back in shape."
Hoping to capitalize on the momentum of the 2009 season, Utah put its season tickets on sale during the meet. They go on sale again Monday. ... Beth Rizzo , unable to compete this season after badly spraining her ankle, had surgery on the ankle Thursday. ... Utah junior Daria Bijak competed only on the bars after hurting her knee in practice.