Griffeths Look to Make Their Mark on Utah Gymnastics

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University of Utah women's gymnastics sophomore Cammy Hall is cheered by University of Utah assistant gymnastics coach Garrett Griffeth after her performance on the Vault in a dual meet vs. Oregon State University at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor

 

When tasked to follow the footsteps of two of the most decorated coaches in college gymnastics, all eyes were on the newly appointed head coach Tom Farden to see who would help fill the voids on the University of Utah gymnastics staff. 

Farden chose to go with two people who had a similar background as him: Garrett Griffeth and Courtney McCool Griffeth. 

University of Utah women’s gymnastics sophomore Adrienne Randall is cheered by volunteer coach Courtney McCool Griffeth before her performance on the floor in a dual meet vs. Oregon State University at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Courtney can relate to what the girls on the team feel when it comes to competition time. She was a gymnast at the University of Georgia, where she won two national championships. Before she competed in the SEC, she took her talents to the highest level with the U.S. National team. In 2004, she won the all-around at the Olympic Test Event in Athens, Greece. During the same year, she took second in the all-around in the U.S. Olympic trials. She also has a silver medal from the 2004 Olympic Team. 

The pair started their coaching journey together at Texas Woman’s University, a Division II school that they helped coach to a national championship. 

University of Utah assistant gymnastics coach Garrett Griffeth congratulates junior Alexia Burch after her performances on the vault in a dual meet vs. Arizona State at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

“They have similar beginnings to Carly [Dockendorf] and I in terms of I was at Southeast Missouri State and Carly was at Seattle Pacific,” Farden said. “In those programs, you learn to grind things out.” 

From there, the pair moved to Arkansas, where Garrett ended up being the Associate Head Coach for the Razorbacks. Courtney was the team’s volunteer assistant coach and also worked on the choreography for the team’s floor routines. 

From the first season the Griffeths were part of Arkansas gymnastics, their presence was felt. In 2018, Garrett coached Braie Speed to All-American honors and helped the team reach the NCAA Championships for the first time in five years. Last season, Courtney coached Sophia Carter to regular season All-American honors and helped Carter qualify as an individual for the NCAA National Championships. 

But when the call comes to be part of one of the best programs in the country, you can’t turn it down. 

“Obviously Utah speaks for itself and what they have accomplished but we were super excited that’s for sure,” Garrett said. 

This year’s team has shown that even if you lose four All-Americans, you can still compete at the highest level possible, as this team is one of the youngest in the conference. But the Griffeths are helping the members on the team find their place and look like they have been together for years. 

“Compete for each other. Believe in each other. Continue to challenge each other — to really embrace where they are at and where we want to go,” Courtney said. “And it is our responsibility to do that and to be intentional with that and have that be the focal point every day, to believe in each other and compete for each other and to do everything we can.” 

University of Utah women’s gymnastics volunteer coach Courtney McCool Griffeth cheers her performer on before the floor in a dual meet vs. Oregon State University at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

As the season progresses, Garrett says that everyone can see that the team is coming into the gym with more confidence and they are relying on each other a little bit more. Farden believes that both coaches bring things to this team that mesh well with the other coaching styles on the team. He believes that Courtney is someone who can bring a lot of creativity to the team while Garrett is there for the athletes.

“Garrett is a player’s coach. He really makes sure that there is good communication between what the athletes are doing and what he is prescribing and good communication lines and really wants to find a solution together. He co-pilots things really well,” Farden said. 

Farden also adds that the pair brings a lot of enthusiasm. There are lots of things that one can love when coming to Utah, including the people that are in and around this historic program. 

“Being around these people who are driven and want to win, it’s very refreshing,” Garrett said. 

When meet day comes, both have things that they do to keep themselves grounded. 

“I keep a lineup card in my pocket and I write on the back of it, ‘Love your team no matter what,’ just as a reminder that no matter what happens in the meet — the ups, the downs, whatever — to stay together and keep that focus,” Garrett said.  

Courtney has always prayed during the national anthem, but she always makes sure that she breathes and makes sure that the girls know this is what they were meant to do. “Remind them to breathe and just to embrace the moment and for them to know this moment is exactly where you should be so doing what you want with it,” Courtney said. 

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