It’s only been two months, and incoming University of Utah freshman gymnast Samantha Partyka is already experiencing a family feel. Head coaches Greg and Megan Marsden are known for making their team feel like family, and Partyka is enjoying being a little sister on the team.
"It’s really fun for me to come into a new team," she said.
The Katy, Texas native is not alone. There are three other "sisters" that make up the Utes freshman class, including Kari Lee, Maddy Stover and Tiffani Lewis. The four girls competed together for years on the Junior Olympics circuit and now share a dorm suite on campus. As for big sisters, those are actually assigned. Each new gymnast is paired with an older teammate who is there to help with the transition, answering questions, offering advice, and guiding the rookies through their first year.
"The whole team is like a family," Partyka said. "It’s been an amazing experience so far."
It was that family feel that attracted Partyka to the Utes. Utah was in her top schools when she was deciding on a college program but the homey feeling she found during an unofficial visit sold her on the Utes.
"It was a great atmosphere to be in," Partyka said.
Partyka is hoping to jump right in and contribute to the team, hopefully competing as an all-arounder, but especially being a force on her specialty, the vault.
"I would really like to contribute on all of the events this year," she said.
Another part of the competition she is looking forward to is the team atmosphere. After years of competing as an individual, Partyka is looking forward to making a difference in competitions with her new family. She’s also hoping that her biological family can make the trip from Texas to watch most of her meets. But Partyka knows that she’ll have plenty of support even at the meets her family can’t attend. She’s already had a glimpse of the fans at Utah’s regular season meets and is ready to be a part of Utah’s extended family of fans.
"It’s amazing how many fans they have," she said.