For several years now Utah gymnastics coach Tom Farden has witnessed with a tinge of jealousy how other top teams have benefited from holding regular season meets in a podium setting. Now the Utes are finally getting their turn in Saturday’s Best of Utah meet at the Maverik Center.
The Utes will compete against Brigham Young, Southern Utah and Utah State at 7 p.m.
The meet is in a neutral arena, but Farden played a big hand in making the meet happen. Getting a chance to compete on a podium, which is a raised platform set several feet above the floor, is a good experience for teams before the post-season when all meets are held in such a format.
The experience could be more valuable than ever for the Utes, given their youth.
“We know it’s going to give us some great practice for the future,” Farden said. “We want to get the athletes out there in the Maverik Center and we are hoping the state of Utah can embrace this. Being such a small state and having four Division I teams is pretty incredible.”
Selling the meet to the other coaches didn’t take much effort on Farden’s part since they saw the value in the format as well. It’s also a good way to showcase Utah gymnastics statewide since there are 26 Utahns on the roster.
“A lot of our girls have never been on a podium before so it is going to be a cool experience for them,” BYU coach Guard Young said. “We have a lot of support for gymnastics in this state so it is a great way to celebrate that too.”
The key was getting the Maverik Center to buy into the format since doing so required buying a podium setup which can cost more than $100,000.
The deal was sweetened with a five-year contract. The last time all four teams competed together was the 2003 Smith’s Cup Challenge won by the Utes. Utah State was second in that competition followed by BYU and SUU.
The Maverik Center is in the midst of a three-year deal to host the Pac-12 Championships as well. The 2019 championship was won by UCLA in front of a crowd of 8,621.
“It’s a significant investment but the Maverik Center was looking for some new and innovative ways to use their arena,” Farden said of the podium setting. “The Big Ten and SEC have been holding these kinds of meets for years and now that we have our conference meets on a podium, I can’t imagine not using one.”
Utah senior Kim Tessen said competing in the arena last year was a great experience but is glad the Utes don’t have to wait until the end of the year.
“I’m really excited for the newcomers to be on the podium,” Tessen said. “It helps anytime you can familiarize yourself with an arena.”
Farden is eager to see how the team handles the situation as much as it handles the competition itself.
“You have the shotgun start and with everything going on at once it is very chaotic,” he said. “It’s going to be good experience for kids who haven’t competed like this.”
BEST OF UTAH GYMNASTICS MEET
Who • Utah, Southern Utah, BYU, Utah State
Where • Maverik Center, West Valley City
When • Saturday 7 p.m.
Radio • ESPN 700
Of note • Utah will open the met on vault, BYU will start on bars, Utah State on the beam and SUU on the floor...BYU defeated Nebraska 195.75-195.6 in its season opener. This is the season opener for the other teams…BYU’s Shannon Evans was the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Gymnast of the Year last year…Utah’s Kim Tessen is ranked No. 2 on vault, No. 5 on bars and No. 6 on floor…SUU’s Karley McClain was the MRGC Freshman of the Year in 2019…Utah State’s Autumn DeHarde was the MRGC Freshman of the Year in 2018 and qualified for regionals as an individual in 2019.