As the Utah gymnastics team continues to practice its routines and prepare for the journey that awaits them next week, the Red Rocks are excited to face the challenge of Nationals once again. They are excited for the competition they’re about to face, but they are excited about the location of the events as well, with Fort Worth, Texas being the host city for the NCAA championship for the second year in a row.
Not many Utah fans are excited to make the long journey to the heart of the Lone Star State, but it will be a homecoming of sorts for a few of the gymnasts themselves.
All-arounder Samantha Partyka and newcomers Sabrina Schwab and Shannon McNatt all hail from the state, and are excited to return to a city close to their homes. Partyka’s family will even be traveling from Houston to see her in action.
“It’s going to be great to be back there [in Texas],” Partyka said. “My family is road-tripping up to Fort Worth so it will be exciting to see everyone. I’m really excited to get out there to compete.”
It will be especially exciting for Schwab, whose old stomping ground of Lucas is just an hour away from Fort Worth.
“It’s just amazing having the meet so close to family,” Schwab said. “It’s great to have friends and family come out to watch the competition. It will also be cool for some of them who haven’t even seen a college gymnastics meet, so that will be fun. I just can’t wait to see everyone.”
Co-head coach Megan Marsden is also excited about her three gymnasts representing the U in their home state, and is sure they will draw a lot of family members and friends to cheer them on, as well as the rest of the team.
“I can tell by the number of ticket needs that those girls will be well-represented in the stands,” Marsden said. “That always helps Utah. The more we have fans with matching t-shirts going crazy over Utah, the better.”
Besides having many Utah fans traveling for the meet, Texas has been a tool for the Red Rocks in terms of scouting and recruitment; co-head coach Tom Farden just returned from Texas last week.
Marsden and Farden have taken notice of the level of competitiveness, and have gone on numerous trips over the last couple of years to continue to search for top gymnasts like Partyka and Schwab.
“[Farden] will tell you with recruiting that Texas puts out some great athletes,” Marsden said. “It’s not a secret, with [Partyka] being in the all-around now, and [Schwab] will be there in another year; everyone knows that she’s incredible on her two events, and [McNatt] was somebody that came to us and is transitioning, but I’m hoping to have her out there on beam and floor where she shows off her quality next year. These are great athletes that have come from great programs in Texas.”
Texas has always been a home for top athletes, as a large state that’s passionate about sports in general, but it also has a known history of top gymnasts who can compete at the highest levels within its boundaries. Utah’s three Texans are testaments to the commitment and drive a lot of the gym clubs in the state provide, and the Red Rocks will continue to search in and around the big Texas cities to find the next top gymnasts for the program.
But for now, Schwab, Partyka and the rest of the team are focusing on the present, and that’s performing to their best in front of friends and family in their home state.