Faces of the U: Beaming up

By By Ana Breton and By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

It all started in a basement in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Megan Marsden was three years old and her mother was trying to find a babysitter to watch her while she worked as a physical education teacher at a junior high school.

Marsden’s mother asked a neighbor, who taught dance classes in her basement, to watch her daughter while she worked. Marsden danced, she said, until she “grew out” of the basement and enrolled in gymnastics lessons at a local YMCA.

“I was very active,” she said. “So the sport seemed like a very good fit.”

Now, Marsden is the associate head coach of the U’s gymnastics team-the Red Rocks.

Marsden first came to Utah as a gymnast in 1981 when the head coach recruited her because he saw a “diamond-in-the-rough” talent in her, she said. She went out on a limb and took the scholarship.

Every year for the four years that she was at the U, the gymnastics team won the national championship.

Then, at age 22, she retired from competing in the sport and began coaching. Gymnastics, she said, is a “young-people sport” because adults tend to lose a lot of flexibility and power as they age. Only a handful of gymnasts compete professionally after four years.

During the 19 years she has been involved in gymnastics, she has suffered nothing more than a sprained ankle.

“I think I’m just genetically built for the sport,” she said.

At age 30, however, Marsden was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after one of her family members noticed she had symptoms of diabetes: continuous thirst, constant urination and blurred vision.

“I was very fortunate that I didn’t get it until I stopped participating in sports,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it would have been like had I still been competing.”

As a coach, Marsden said some of the events have changed drastically since the time she was a gymnast.

The floor and balance beam events are similar, but the uneven bars “are not even the same sport,” she said.

Other things have also changed for Marsden.

During her sophomore year, she began dating her coach, Greg Marsden, and married him before the end of her senior year. The relationship worked for them, she said, because a coach/athlete romance was not as frowned upon in the ’80s.

“Back then it was not a controversial topic,” she said. “But now society wouldn’t allow that because of potential power situations.”

Male/female coaching teams, however, are beneficial to a team and are gaining popularity, she said.

“Women are savvy at the grace and dancing aspects on the floor routine,” she said. “Men know how to teach the power part of the sport.”

Greg Marsden, who has been married to Megan Marsden for 23 years, started the gymnastics program in 1975 with a team of only five athletes. The couple has two children-Montana Marsden, 18, and Dakota Marsden, 15-who play on soccer, basketball and baseball teams.

“They peddled with gymnastics when they were younger, but they were like, ‘No thanks, Mom and Dad,'” Megan Marsden said.

When they are not watching, coaching or participating in sports, the Marsden family likes to watch movies and travel. They travel to a lake in Minnesota every summer.

Megan Marsden’s upcoming destination is the NCAA Championship in April.

“I’m so excited to have other colleges come to Salt Lake,” she said. “I’m also excited to show off the athletes in front of our home crowd.”

As for how long Megan Marsden will be coaching, she said she will coach until her husband retires.

“He wants me to replace him, but I won’t-I think we complement each other,” she said. “I feel fortunate to work with him. We’re a great duo.”

Mike Terry

Gymnastics coach Megan Marsden consults gymnasts Nicolle Ford and Ashley Postell last Friday during their meet against Michigan at the Huntsman Center. She and her husband, Greg Marsden, are the most successful coaching duo in college gymnastics, having led the Red Rocks to 11 national championships.

Kim Peterson

Gymnastics coach Megan Marsden hugs Daria Bijak after her performance on the beam in a Feb. 3 meet at the Huntsman Center. Marsden competed with the Utah gymnastics team for four years after she was recruited in 1981, each year helping the team win the national championship.