SALT LAKE CITY — When Utah gymnastics co-head coach Megan Marsden saw Becky Tutka practicing in a Pennsylvania gym, she was immediately intrigued.
Tutka, however, didn’t think she was good enough to compete for the storied University of Utah gymnastics team.
“I actually wasn’t looking at Utah at first,” said Tutka, who was recently named First Team Pac-12 on floor. “I thought they were too good for me, that I was just not Utah caliber.”
Marsden was visiting Parkettes Gymnastics to see Lia Del Priore, who’d already committed to Utah, when she saw Tutka.
“Her energy, her personality, her obvious comfort with being out in front of people and her competitiveness,” co-head coach Greg Marsden said of what his wife, Megan Marsden, saw in that practice session. “I think Megan observed those things, and how she interacted with her teammates. She is a very powerful athlete and (Megan) felt like (Tutka) would be able to contribute.” And this year those contributions have been critical for a young Utah squad that heads to regionals in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday. Tutka finishes the year as one of the best on floor in the Pac-12, and she anchors the team on what is one of its strongest events.
“It’s big,” said Greg Marsden of her contributions. “She’s such a performer, so much fun and has so much difficulty, that it’s just a great way to finish off our floor set.” She led off on floor last year and didn’t compete in any other events. She leads off for Utah on beam this year, an event that has been the team’s weakness.
“She’s done a good job of starting us off on beam,” said Marsden. “She’s not always perfect, but she hasn’t had a fall. She, at least, finds a way to stay on the beam every meet.” He also said she’s so close to breaking into the vault line-up, he won’t rule out a postseason appearance in that event.
“She’s really progressed,” he said. “She’s one of my most consistent in practice with sticking the landing. And with the vault, so much of it is about sticking the landing.”
He said some of her success, especially on beam, comes from her competitive nature.
“She’s enough of a competitor that even in tough situations, she really fights,” he said.
Being the lead off on beam can put a lot of pressure on a gymnast, he acknowledged.
“It’s important that that person hit her routine even better in competition than she (does) in practice,” he said. “She handled it so beautifully for us the year before on floor that we asked her to lead off on beam.”
Marsden said her grit and determination, coupled with her ease in front of a crowd, make her both a fan favorite and an impressive athlete.
“I wouldn’t bet against Becky,” said Marsden. “She’s a fighter; she’s a battler.”
The sophomore smiles as she recalls being recruited after her best friend, Del Priore, who is a year older, committed to Utah.
“She came to my club when we were around 12 years old, and my coach took me aside and said, ‘Be nice to this girl,’ ” she said with a smile. “After that we were, well, people say attached at the hip, but we say attached at the head because if she has a bad day, I would have a bad day. We get each other. We’re a lot alike. We’re just best friends.”
Del Priore was a year older in school, so her positive experience helped convince Tutka that not only was she good enough to compete for Utah but she would enjoy being a member of the tradition-rich Red Rocks.
“I believe everything happens for a reason and that I’m supposed to be here,” she said. “And I’m enjoying being here.” Marsden was a little puzzled that Tutka doubted herself back then because the one thing she exudes is confidence.
“Maybe it’s that we coaches tend to point out what (athletes) need to improve on, and we probably don’t do a good enough job of reminding them of all of the positive things,” he said. “Maybe she just began to focus on the weakness, which everyone has, and not the abundance of things that she does so well.”
Tutka isn’t feeling anything but confidence heading into Saturday’s regionals.
“We definitely want to redeem ourselves,” she said referring to their mediocre beam performance at the Pac-12 championships two weeks ago. “We are a great beam team, and we want to show everyone that we’re a great beam team. We’ve been working hard on our beam and our mental approach to beam.”
She had a wobble in her routine, as did nearly every other competitor. But while some might ruminate on a bad outing, Tutka does not.
“For me personally, I get over it pretty quickly if I have a bad event,” she said. “I just kind of move onto each even like it’s a new day. I don’t think I’m the type of person who crumbles after one mistake. And that’s a good thing.”
Twitter: adonsports Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company