Utah’s gymnastics team was one of the sport’s biggest success stories on the collegiate level in 2020 as the Utes went undefeated and won the regular season Pac-12 title despite having to replace the majority of their routines from a year ago.
On Wednesday, coach Tom Farden was recognized for his coaching effort as the Pac-12 Conference named him the league’s Coach of the Year. In addition, Utah senior Kim Tessen, arguably one of the most improved gymnasts in the country, was named the Specialist of the Year.
UCLA’s Kyla Ross was named the Gymnast of the Year and Cal’s Nevaeh DeSouza was named Freshman of the Year.
Farden, who previously shared coaching duties with Megan Marsden, was the program’s lone head coach in 2020. The team finished ranked fourth nationally and was just the second Utah team to go undefeated in the regular season, joining the 1993 team with the distinction.
Farden is happy with how the Utes did, but acknowledged he wishes he could have seen how his team did in the postseason. Utah’s last regular season meet against Utah State and the postseason were cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Selfishly of course I wanted to see,” he said. “We had a plan in place and I think every year is an experiment. You don’t know if it is going to work so there is a little bit of a mad scientist’s approach to having them peak at the right time. I think it was going to work.”
Farden believes the season could be a launching point for seasons to come, particularly since he will return a seasoned team next year.
“My biggest takeaway is we set some standards to be consistent with them and we didn’t want to back down from what we expected of them as a team,” he said. “The Marsdens had set a gold standard of competitiveness that we had. We wanted to see what this team could do at nationals.”
Tessen, a senior captain, posted career highs on every event and earned a 10.0 on the vault against Stanford. She finished as the top vaulter in the conference and was ninth nationally with a 9.91 average. She was also ninth nationally on the uneven bars with a 9.92 average.
“Winning that award speaks volumes for Kim,” Farden said. “She had the tenacity to save the best for last. I am so proud of her and the way she battled back from injury to show what she could really do.”
Tessen was All-Pac-12 first team on the vault and bars. Alexia Burch was first-team on the vault, and Cristal Isa was first-team on the bars and beam. Abby Paulson and Maile O’Keefe were also first-team on the beam. Sydney Soloski was first-team on the floor.