Greg Marsden, who has guided the University of Utah women's gymnastics teams to 10 national championships, has piled up an amazing list of "firsts" and "onlys" in his 34 years with the program. Deseret News sports writer Linda Hamilton sat down with Marsden after the Utes team placed third in this year's NCAA championship meet.
Q: Do you think there's any possibility that your gymnasts, after putting everything they had into this year and still finishing third, will just say, 'Oh, what the heck,' and not work in this offseason ?
A: I don't think so. Other than for what I think will be a relatively short period of disappointment, I think everybody agrees that this was a blast and we'd love to try to do it as much as we can like this next year.
Q: Last year, the loss of seniors like Ashley Postell left a big void, but many stepped up for a good 2009 season. What about 2010?
A: As big as the holes were last year, you could argue that the holes are even bigger this year that we've got to fill. We've got eight spots competed by two of the best all-arounders in the country this year (seniors Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim), and we've got to somehow replace those scores. We're going to need people like (Gael Mackie, Stephanie McAllister and Jacqueline Johnson) to really step up and become good all-around gymnasts for us, and they probably will be and be able to score big scores on those events. Kyndal (Robarts) is a little bit there already, although she couldn't do bars for us (shoulder injury), but she's been a very strong competitor for two years now on the three events she competes. Some people have to get better in the offseason. And then we need some help from our freshmen to be able to come in and contribute right from the beginning.
Q: Talk about the incoming freshmen.
A: Megan Whitney trains with Geoff Eaton at Desert Devils in Scottsdale, but (much of) her family is here. She just won her regional JO (Junior Olympics) meet this past weekend, so she'll be competing at the JO championships in May. Kaetlyn Mohr, who is a former elite gymnast, also just won her age group at JO regionals and will be competing at the JO championships in May. She's from the same club Annie DiLuzio's from. Both are very solid athletes and very capable of contributing. It's all a matter with freshmen of how they transition in — if they do a good job once their (club) season is over of not just walking away from it and expecting to just show up. They're not coming in where Nina and Kristina are going out, so I don't think at this point we're trading even. They're both very solid on all four events, and they're both very capable of continuing to improve.
Q: In 2010 it will be 15 years since you won an NCAA championship. Do you question anything that you do? Do you need to go after higher profile athletes, or can you just not get them?
A: Well, we go after them. Occasionally we get somebody. I do think we've had a lot of success here, and we continue to have a lot of success. The one thing we haven't been able to do in the last 15 years is get on that very top of the podium. But other than that, we've accomplished just about everything else that you can do. I try not to worry as much about that as trying to keep the program as competitive as I possibly can. At the end of the year, if we've done everything we can and the best we can do is third or second, then we've got to celebrate that. We'll always try to do better than that.
Q: Will having Suzanne Yoculan (retiring Georgia coach who won the last five NCAA titles) gone change anything?
A: No. The whole thing might be a little more boring without her comments. She brought a lot of attention to college gymnastics, and whether everybody felt like it was all positive, I never felt like it mattered what your view of that was. It was the fact that she was successful, she did a great job with her athletes and with her program, on her campus, and she brought a lot of attention to gymnastics. From that sense, we're going to miss not having her involved, I think.