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Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Utah gymnastics co-head coach Megan Marsden applauds her team during meet against Penn State at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — The end of an era.

That is the only way to describe the news that came out of the University of Utah Monday afternoon.

After 35 seasons as either an assistant or co-head coach of the Utah gymnastics team, not to mention her four years as a standout gymnast herself, Megan Marsden is stepping away from the sport.

“I cannot express how lucky I have been to spend all these years at the University of Utah, competing alongside and coaching so many talented, strong, smart, amazing young women,” Marsden said in a press release announcing her retirement. “To participate in multiple national championships as both an athlete and a coach at your alma mater is a thrill few people get to experience. But certainly the best part of my time here is the wonderful family of women we brought together at Utah and who will always be in my life.”

Marsden starred on four national championship teams at the U., from 1981-84, and became the most decorated college gymnast of the era in the process. As Megan McCunniff, she won three individual NCAA titles (two all-around, one vault) and earned 12 first-team All-America awards.

That was enough to earn her the 1984 Broderick Award, which recognized her as the country’s top collegiate woman gymnast. In 1996, Marsden became the first gymnast inducted into the Utah athletics department’s Crimson Club Hall of Fame, and in 2003 she was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame.

Marsden graduated from the U. in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations, after which she assumed a position on the Utah coaching staff, as an assistant to head coach Greg Marsden, before later earning promotions to associate (1997) and co-head (2010) coach.

Utah qualified for the NCAA Championships in all of Marsden’s 35 seasons with the team, winning national titles in 1985, 1986, 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1995, and finishing as the NCAA runner-up eight times — most recently in 2015.

As an assistant specializing on balance beam, she coached five gymnasts to individual NCAA titles, including Missy Marlowe, Summer Reid, Theresa Kulikowski and Ashley Postell. Marlowe and Reid were both back-to-back winners, which makes Marsden the only coach in NCAA history to mentor multiple gymnasts to back-to-back beam titles.

All told, gymnasts coached by Marsden won 11 total NCAA titles, seven on the balance beam, three on floor and one on vault, as well as 222 All-America awards.

As the co-head coach of the Red Rocks, Marsden compiled a 222-80-3 overall record and was a two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year (2014, 2015 with Greg Marsden) and two-time Regional Coach of the Year (2011, 2012).

“Megan Marsden is and always will be a legend,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said. “I have been so privileged to spend this last year with her and witness her compassion and care for all of her student-athletes. Utah gymnastics, with its championships and rabid fan base, will forever serve as a monument to Megan’s passion and leadership.”

The decision to hang up her proverbial cape was a long time coming for Marsden.

“I made a decision several months ago that this would be my last season as a coach and I am so proud of this team and all they accomplished,” she said. “I am glad this season could be all about them, as that is how I wanted it.

“When Greg retired, I planned to stay on another three to five years. I have enjoyed the last four years co-coaching with Tom (Farden) and he has demonstrated complete capability in every area necessary to be a successful head coach on his own here. Greg and I could see those qualities in him early on, and while neither of us knew an exact timeline, we knew that one day we wanted to turn the program over to him. The Utah gymnastics program is in good hands.”

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She will not be stepping away from the program or university completely, as she plans to serve as an ambassador for the athletics department.

“I have loved working with brilliant men like Greg and Tom and they have always appreciated what I brought to the program,” she said. “I got to spend most of my time outside practices and competitions doing the aspects of the job I loved the most, like nutrition, fitness, personal development and wellness of our student-athletes. Now, I look forward to moving to a role of quiet support. Except during meets, that is. Then I’ll be cheering for my Utes!”