Megan Fenton, a member of Rocky Mountain Gymnastics and a National Gymnastics Team member, hasn't been able to compete this year because of a knee injury.
But being a volunteer at the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials still gives her a chance to participate and to feel a part of the events."It's nice to be down by the gymnasts where the competition is going on, and to feel their excitement," said Fenton, 15, Sandy, one of 39 youth volunteers who donated their time. The volunteers will serve as runners or score-card carriers, participate in ceremonies or help in a variety of other ways in coming days.
Scores of youth and adult volunteers were on hand over the weekend as the United States' eight top women rhythmic gymnasts vied for a spot on the team that will represent the United States at theSeoul Olympics in September.
From the opening ceremony to the contestants' final march around the Salt Palace arena floor, volunteers were a vital part of the competition and pageantry.
Most of the gymnasts in artistic competition (scheduled later in the trials) "are my friends and I've competed with them before," said Fenton. "One of the top hopefuls in artistic competition is Missy Marlowe. She works out at the same gym as I do. She's a good friend and a great gymnast. I'm sure (she and other contestants) are all excited for this meet. They're probably a little nervous but very excited."
Anne Marie Jensen, a well-known gymnast, elite judge and Utah coordinator of all volunteer activities at the trials, said the excitement for her is seeing the athletes perform and everyone working together.
The athletes "work harder to make the U.S. team than to go to Korea. This is where they make the team. We want to make this one of the best meets of their lives, because only a handful will go to Korea. And we want to make it exciting for the audience, because most of them don't get to go to the Olympics," Jensen said.
WylaGene Seal, a Class I judge and her daughter, Kimberly, 12, West Jordan, are among dozens of other volunteers.
"All gymnasts would give their eye teeth to be here on the floor, to watch and to participate. Kimberly is thrilled to watch the routines up close - just to be a part of the trials," said the West Jordan woman, who is assisting with such tasks as scoring.
Other volunteers include Matt Yeates, 17, of U.S. Gymnastics World, Bountiful; Karla McGinnis, 15, Sandy; Becky Ellis, 11, West Valley City; Stacy Madsen, 12, Sandy; Rebecca Dunkley, 15, Bountiful; and Sharon Hayden, Salt Lake City, a chaperone for runners and score flashers.
As the eyes of McGinnis, Ellis and Madsen were fixed on the rhythmic movements of women athletes Friday evening, Hayden said she believes the trials are a major factor in helping young athletes plan their future.
Rhythmic gymnastics are "different, but they're really neat. You don't see them very often in Utah. They are so new," said McGinnis, a Class I artistic gymnast.
The gymnastics trials would not be possible without the efforts of individuals such as Rainer Dahl, chairman and president of the Utah Sports Foundation Inc.; Greg Mardsen, technical consultant to the foundation and University of Utah women's gymnastics coach; Dave Johnson, foundation executive director; and Jensen.
Dahl, who organized the foundation - the entity that bid on and won the trials run by the U.S. Gymnastics Federation - says he has dreamed of the foundation helping to provide money for training and travel costs of athletes who have potential to participate in the Olympics.
And the foundation was organized to "bring events such as this to the people of Utah. I attended the 1984 Olympics games in Los Angeles. I saw what it did for that city. It really unified people. The event attracted a tremendous number of volunteers. I thought it was something that could benefit Utah and its citizens - to be involved with an amateur athletic event," Dahl said.
A spirit of voluntarism permeates the gymnastics trials, as evident not only from those who serve at the meet itself but in many other ways.
Trudy Beck and Margaret Neilson are in charge of all hospitality for athletes, coaches, sponsors, $200 and $500 ticket holders and others. They head a staff of more than 50 people.
Varina Ballif of the sports foundation oversees the efforts of volunteers in charge of registration and services at Little America Hotel, which is providing complimentary housing for athletes and coaches.
Stephen Bennett, also of the foundation, is directing transportation services for athletes.