Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships: Family atmosphere descends on Salt Lake
SALT LAKE CITY - Watching the practice sessions before the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships, you can’t help but feel the positive energy in the Huntsman Center.
The gymnasts can be found warming up, laughing with one another, or having a dance party. Teams greet other teams like long-lost friends and, despite the stiff competition coming up, the air is relaxed and fun.
“Most of these girls know each other,” Utah head coach Greg Marsden says. “Not only from their time in college but from their time before college. Many of them competed with each other at the same club, so they were former teammates, so for all of us, whenever all of us are together, I think there’s that feeling of camaraderie.”
That feeling exists even when the teams are competing against one another with a conference title on the line. Brittany Harris, an undergraduate student assistant coach for Oregon State, felt it as an athlete and credits it with helping her stay on as a coach.
“I love the fact that we all come from different places in the country and we go to different schools, but every time we come together it’s always exciting to see each other. We wish each other good luck and the best.”
That sense of community travels beyond the Pac-12 championship. During the 2014 football bowl season, students and fans from around the conference helped generate the #BackthePac social media movement to support other Pac-12 teams and build a strong bond within the conference.
Marsden says that mentality will continue should a Pac-12 team make it to the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championship, which begins April 17 in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Beyond this, I know there’s really that feeling as we go on to regionals and NCAA championships. We’ll all want to do well, anybody that qualifies, but we’ll be pulling for each other as well," he said, adding a "Back The Pac" at the end.
Harris described the close-knit feeling best.
“The Pac-12 is more than a conference, it’s a family. And it’s a great family to be a part of.”