Melissa Wenner rode on the bus with her Utah Utes softball teammates on the way back to their Texas hotel, dancing down the aisles and singing, “Utes are in the house,” to the tune of “Groove Is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite. It was May 18, 1991, and the Utes had just beaten Texas A&M at College Station to make their first-ever NCAA Women’s College World Series.
The weather was hot, humid and sticky, Wenner recalled. And as the team entered their hotel, still beaming with elation, someone had the wild idea of jumping in the pool.
“It was just kind of a spur of the moment thing,” said Wenner, a pitcher.
The moment was one of celebratory rule-breaking and a chance to cool off and release stress. But it ended up becoming a Utes softball tradition that coach Amy Hogue, who played on the 1991 and 1994 World Series teams, carried over to her team.
How to watch the Women’s College World Series
No. 12 Utah Utes vs. No. 5 Washington Huskies
Friday, 11 a.m.
RADIO: ESPN 700
The 2023 Utes jumped in the swimming and diving pool on campus after winning the program’s first-ever Pac-12 championship. They jumped in it after they won the NCAA Regionals. And they jumped in it again when they won the Super Regionals that punched their ticket to Oklahoma City for the first time since 1994.
“It just is fun,” Hogue said of the tradition. “This group wins championships. They do hard things and then they enjoy what they did, and that’s part of it. That’s why we’ve continued it.”
Jumping in the pool after historic wins looks different nowadays for the Utes. In 1991 and 1994, the team jumped into 4-feet-deep hotel pools in Texas and Louisiana. But the pool on Utah’s campus now is Olympic-sized with much deeper areas, and most players are jumping off one of the many diving boards.
Hogue, for instance, did a backflip into the pool from the high dive platform after last weekend’s Game 3 win over San Diego State.
Laurel Simmons, who played on the 1991 team, noticed herself worrying for Hogue’s safety as she watched the flip on social media.
“Be careful, Amy, we need a coach,” Simmons said she thought.
By all accounts, though, none of the players past or present have opted out of jumping into the pool.
“If anyone drowned, we were there to help them up,” graduate Ellessa Bonstrom said. “I will say it is kind of challenging jumping in with full uniforms and trying to swim back up to the top. But we all did it, thankfully.”
The Utes play Washington on Friday at a 11 a.m. The game, originally scheduled for Thursday but delayed due to the game prior being on rain delay, will be televised on ESPN.
Many Utes alumni from the softball team are traveling to Oklahoma City to support the team in their quest to win their first College World Series in history. Simmons is one of them.
Simmons said she had the opportunity to jump in the pool after the Utes won the Super Regionals, but didn’t want to impose on their celebration.
But if things break right for the Utes, she’ll be covered in chlorinated water like everyone else.
“If there’s an opportunity to jump in a pool, and I’m in Oklahoma City,” Simmons said, “yes, I will insert myself in on that because that would mean they just won the national championship.”