As she was working toward a degree in sport management at Michigan, Abby Brenner picked an interesting subject matter for some of her marketing projects: the Utah gymnastics team.
“It was fascinating to study a women’s sport that was so popular and had such a legacy,” she said.
The former Michigan Wolverine is no longer simply watching the Utes work their magic on the floor and in the stands, as Brenner opted to use her fifth year to join the Utes.
“I want to be a head coach one day and a long-term goal is to be an athletic director. So what better way to do it than come here and experience it?” Brenner said. “This is completely different and exciting.”
Her presence is exciting for the Utes too, especially with her talent on the vault, the area the Utes felt they needed to strengthen the most.
Utah, which opened the season against LSU on Jan. 6, hopes to field six 10.0 vaulters now with Brenner in the fold since she was an All-American vaulter for the Wolverines.
“She has cemented herself in the vault,” Utah coach Tom Farden said. “We have a lot training the vault and we will see how things go but she is a lock on two events and that speaks volumes for her contributions.”
The other event Farden speaks of is the uneven bars. It is a little odd to have a gymnast excel on the vault and bars since normally power goes with power, meaning strong vaulters often are strong floor performers.
Brenner turned herself into a good bar worker, where graceful lines and crisp moves are prioritized because the event once was her weak spot.
“Ever since I was a little girl I was never good at it,” she said. “One day it just kind of clicked.”
Now with a degree in hand and enjoying a bonus year thanks to the NCAA’s allowance for the Covid-shortened season, Brenner could get away with sliding through the season.
But she makes it clear she didn’t transfer just to get a little personal experience in Utah’s thriving atmosphere. Winning remains important to her.
“We have a stacked team,” she said. “We don’t have any holes anywhere. We can throw the backups in at any second. It’s a long season but we are looking great right now.”
Part of Brenner’s drive could be attributed to the way she has assimilated with the Utes. It helped that she knew several of the gymnasts including Jaylene Gilstrap and Grace McCallum from her pre-college days.
“The transition has been so smooth and all the girls have been amazing and super accepting,” she said. “It’s a little like I am a freshman again and a senior at the same time.”