SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah's gymnastics team opens its 35th season Saturday afternoon at UCLA with the first–ever change in its head-coaching position.
Oh, Greg Marsden — the only head coach the Utes have ever had — remains the head coach.
But on Saturday, his wife, Megan, will share that title in a competition for the first time.
"I feel great about it. It's been a partnership for 25 years or more, and it probably should have happened long ago, but better late than never," said Greg Marsden of Megan's first meet with the title of co-coach.
Greg lobbied Ute athletic director Chris Hill for years to be able to give Megan a title he says she's earned.
"I wore him down," Greg Marsden said. "I think he felt like that's not a model that he's comfortable with. He wants to know who the person is who's responsible, and who he needs to deal with if he has concerns or if he wants to get something done.
"But I think ultimately he realized that's the fair thing in terms of what Megan deserved."
Megan Marsden said she thought about it a lot less than her husband did.
"Getting that title was not important to me," she said, "but (Greg) thought it was important. I deserve it, he says."
And Hill "was good enough to go there."
It does not alter anything about the way the team is run, said Megan.
"Nothing's changed," she said. "Same as it's always been. I just have a title that goes with the situation. I've always been the co-coach in terms of how we run the program. I decide the same things I usually do."
She said the gymnasts "listen to me with the things that they're supposed to listen to me on, and then there's other things they listen to Greg — because he's the heavy, and I don't want to be the heavy."
She admits she'll crack the whip in one department, though: "If they aren't taking care of the apparel I bought them and the shoes, things like that," said the team's director of shopping.
DIFFERENT PATHS: Utah's two best-known senior all-arounders, Daria Bijak and Jamie Deetscreek, came into their final seasons in diverse ways.
Deetscreek spent half of the summer in school and training in the gym, then went home to Pennsylvania for a bit.
"Nothing too exciting," she said.
Bijak, who competed for her home country of Germany in the 2008 Olympics and 2005 World Championships before coming to Utah, has battled injuries and the pressures of competing year-round for half of her Ute career.
So for her summer of 2009, relaxation was in order.
"I went home. I did not do gymnastics the whole summer," Bijak said, laughing at the thought of doing something rare. "I played tennis and just stayed in shape.
"I think I needed it mentally, just to get away, and also my body — I still have injuries and things, but my knees haven't been — I can't even compare it to last year. Like, I really needed it."
When Bijak returned from Germany, she picked up where she left off, earning Deetscreek's respect for being able to do that.
"I think I can't really stop training," said Deetscreek, "just because I'm the type of person that needs to be doing it to keep up my skills.
"Like Daria can take the whole summer off and come back and do a routine in one day. I can't do that."
Just as well, Deetscreek said. "I'd be bored anyway. I don't know what I'm going to do next year" when there's no more training to be done.
NEW NAME: The Utes added a name to their roster last week: Fumina Kobayashi. She's a recent graduate of Brighton High School and a product of Mary Wright's Olympus School of Gymnastics.
Kobayashi was to have been a walk-on in fall 2010, but when the Utes' plans to bring in a recruit from Australia were scratched by the NCAA clearinghouse, which did not accept some of her credits, Kobayashi was told that if she could graduate early and start this semester, she could have that scholarship for the year. She came in with a knee injury but might be able to help on balance beam, said Megan Marsden.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company