Gymnastics on the radio? Of course, Utah’s Red Rocks are giving it a try — and making it work.
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utes' radio play-by-play is done by Megan Marsden, Mike Lageschulte and Kyndal Robarts, from left, as they get ready to live stream and call for the radio the Utah Red Rocks gymnastics team as they host Stanford, Friday, March 6, 2020, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.
As the “Voice of the Utes,” since 2007, Mike Lageschulte has called a lot of sporting events for radio including football, basketball, baseball, softball and others.
But when he was approached with the idea of broadcasting Utah’s gymnastics events, he admits he was a little stumped.
“My first question was, ‘Who else is doing this,?’” he recalled. “They told me other schools had tried but it hadn’t worked out, so it wasn’t very encouraging, but we wanted to give it a shot. But it’s such a visual and technical sport, I wasn’t sure how it could be done.”
Three seasons later, he and the Utes have not only figured out how to do it, radio coverage of Utah’s meets have become a usual part of the media coverage of a team that consistently sells out the Huntsman Center.
Learfield IMG College has a five-year agreement with the Utes to broadcast the home gymnastics meets as well as the post-season meets, such as the upcoming Pac-12 Championships. While there are no ratings for the broadcasts, Lageschulte said the feedback has been positive from all sides. The broadcasts give the Utes some of the diversity in broadcasting they were looking for, fills a spot in the programming and gives Utah more of the media exposure the program loves.
“If it’s going to work anywhere, it’s going to work here with this fanbase,” Lageschulte said. “The biggest question I get now is when are we going to start doing road meets.”
The Utes have sold out their last three home meets and are consistently on TV but coach Tom Farden acknowledges being on the radio and live stream feeds can be a big deal for an Olympic sport program such as gymnastics.
“If they don’t see or hear or read about you, they forget about you,” he said. “ So the more exposure our program gets the better. There are people who might not have the Pac-12 Network, but they can get ESPN radio on an app and have it world wide so it’s extremely invaluable.”
The Utes (11-0) will be back on the radio on Friday when Utah State (7-6-1) visits in the regular season finale at 7 p.m.
Lageschulte uses former gymnasts such as Georgia Dabritz, Maddy Stover, Kyndal Robarts Pond and former coach Megan Marsden to lend analysis to the Utes’ meet broadcasts.
A gymnastics fan since he was a kid, Lageschulte admits his best move in the coverage is to get out of the way.
“I am not trying to do the play by play but more setting things up by talking about a bio or anecdotes,” he said. “I’m not going to describe the intricacies of the routines, I leave that up to the analysts. I’m more of the host.”
Lageschulte patterned his gymnastics coverage after that of Jim Watson and Amanda Borden, a duo who are regular commentators for the Pac-12 Networks.
“What jumped out at me was it isn’t so much play by play but just laying it out there and trying to set things up,” he said.
Robarts Pond and the other former gymnasts add the specifics when needed. Robarts Pond, who competed for the Utes from 2008-12, said she saw no reason her sport shouldn’t be on the radio, after all it is just as popular if not more popular than many other sports that receive coverage over the airwaves.
“It shows how legitimate of a sport it is,” she said. “These women have been competing and have been serious athletes for than 20 years. That is a career for a lot of people so they’ve put a lot of time and effort into it and they should be taken seriously. They are amazing athletes and that is what I want to convey.”
Like others, Robarts Pond is impressed how the 2020 team has competed given the youth of the squad. If the Utes beat Utah State Friday, it will join the 1993 team as the only teams to go undefeated in the regular season.
Fans who don’t have tickets to the meet or can’t make it can at least share in the historic moment by tapping into the radio and live stream coverage.
“With freshmen you never know how they are going to come in but they were prepared and they have really taken ownership of their gymnastics and have done a phenomenal job,” Robarts Pond said.
NO. 4 UTAH VS. UTAH STATE
At the Huntsman Center
When • Friday, 7 p.m.