SALT LAKE CITY — Following your best friend across the country to college? A fun opportunity. Competing with your best friend on one of the country's best gymnastics teams? A dream come true. For Utah gymnasts Becky Tutka and Lia Del Priore, the journey began in sixth grade.
“The first day she came to my gym, my coach said, ‘Be nice to this girl,’” said Tutka. “We’ve been best friends since. I was her maid of honor over the summer, and did all of this research to make sure I did a great job.”
The Pennsylvania natives are both talented gymnasts, but it was Del Priore who first caught Utah’s attention. After Del Priore committed, Tutka soon followed.
“Lia graduated early and I was lost for a year, so I was excited to rejoin her at the U.,” said Tutka.
“It’s really amazing,” said Del Priore. “When Becky told me she had committed to go to Utah, I was so excited that she’d be joining me.”
Both gymnasts have been key contributors to No. 6 Utah’s success. But co-head coach Megan Marsden admitted the two sports junkies have brought more to the team than just athletic talent.
“Sometimes gymnasts are weird because they didn’t do a high school sport so they don’t really get the school spirit thing. The two of them care about the other sports on campus, being Utes and feeling that spirit. I love that they have brought this school spirit to our team on top of their performances.” Marsden said.
During Utah’s gymnastics meets, you will often find Del Priore and Tutka leading the crowd in cheers. Tutka isn’t shy about chatting with fans in between events, and Del Priore is often smiling at her husband John Smith — who was formerly the H man in the MUSS student section’s version of "UTAH" — as he cheers on the team.
“Both of us are super passionate about what we decide to love,” Del Priore admitted.
Though they are close friends, the senior Del Priore and junior Tutka have both had individual experiences at the U. Tutka is an All-American on floor and has been in the vault and beam lineups.
Del Priore had a strong freshman season, but failed to crack any lineups her sophomore year. She fought her way back, recording a 10.0 on floor last season and was also in the vault lineup. She continues to be a fan favorite on floor, like Tutka, but she’s out of the vault lineup this year.
“I’ve grown a lot since my freshman and sophomore years,” said Del Priore. “I’ve learned to really appreciate the team aspect of Utah gymnastics. I know I may not be out there all of the time, but the team is stronger because Becky and I are on it.”
Tutka and Del Priore have never had a fall in their careers at Utah. They hope to lead the Red Rocks to their first Pac-12 team championship later this month and back into the Super Six finals at the NCAA championships in April.
After that, Tutka will set her sights on defending her belly flop championship against her fellow students on campus. Next season, she’ll be back for her senior campaign with her biggest fan Del Priore in the stands.
“I will be doing my student teaching to finish my math teaching degree next year,” said Del Priore. “I'm excited to become a fan and cheer on Becky and the team.”
“There’s just something fun about these two, and everything they bring to this campus,” Marsden said. “They really enjoy themselves and share their passion.”