Utah Red Rocks: A Dominant Legacy


Xiangyao Tang

The Utah Red Rocks pose for a photo at the 2023 NCAA Women’s National Collegiate Gymnastics Championships Finals at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, TX, on April 15, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sean Overton, Sports Editor


The Red Rocks had another historic year, moving to their 47th straight NCAA Championship. The Red Rocks finished their season third in the nation and moved to the NCAA Final for the third consecutive year.

Utah has struggled taking home the title, with their last NCAA Championship win coming in 1995. They came close in 2015, finishing with 197.800, just behind Florida with 197.850. Regardless, the Red Rocks are one of the most dominant teams in college athletics.

The NCAA Championship consists of eight teams who have advanced through two rounds of regional meets. The Red Rocks have been one of the top eight teams in the nation for 47 years, the only team to achieve this. In addition, they captured their 34th regional title in program history this year.

But all of this success didn’t just appear — it had to be built. Former head coach Greg Marsden led the Red Rocks for 40 years, from 1976 to 2015. He amassed a 1,048-208-8 record, along with 40 national championship appearances, 34 NCAA Championship appearances, 10 national championships and 367 All-Americans. These incredible stats were all national records at the time of his retirement.

Marsden wasn’t just all about the team, though. He also had a passion for the fans in Salt Lake. When he began, the sport was slow and attendance was poor. He followed the example set by football, making meets faster, adding introductions and holding promotional nights.

This led to much larger crowds, averaging 14,950 attendees in Marsden’s final year. The Red Rocks hosted crowds of over 14,000 36 times and over 15,000 13 times. He helped build gymnastics at Utah and across the nation, getting more meets nationally televised.

While Marsden is still involved with the Red Rocks, Tom Farden has taken over as head coach. In Farden’s first year as sole head coach, he led the Red Rocks to an undefeated season, going 11-0 before the rest of the season was canceled due to COVID-19 in 2020.

While Farden hasn’t been able to lead the Red Rocks to a championship, he has continued to build the program up, building off of Marsden’s success.

Despite their NCAA title drought, the Red Rocks history continues to push them further. Due to the nature of scoring and the very high level of programs, winning a national title is incredibly hard, even after a team has secured their spot in the final.

But the Red Rocks must be mentioned when talking about NCAA gymnastics. The program is one of the top programs in the nation, and continues to push forward. The Red Rocks have continued to recruit fantastic gymnasts, including freshman Makenna Smith, who scored 9.925 on floor in the 2023 NCAA Gymnastics Final, a team high.

Maile O’Keefe joined the team in 2020, Farden’s first year. She has been a four-time National Champion, on bars and floor in 2021, along with beam and all-around in 2023. She has been a fan favorite and has helped the Red Rocks continue their historical streak.

Utah’s fantastic recruiting has continued this year with commitments from Olivia Kennedy and Avery Neff. Kennedy is a two-time Junior Olympics National Championships qualifier and Neff is the No. 1 overall recruit in the country.

The Red Rocks had a strong season and continue to have a strong team, including former Olympian Grace McCallum. This Red Rocks team continues to build on itself year after year, and the future is certainly bright.


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