The Utah gymnastics team takes their uniforms seriously. They do not just wear one or two leotards all season, they have 24: 13 long sleeve and 11 sleeveless. They have a multitude of warm-up gear and workout cloths as well. Every sports team wears a uniform of some sort. While a uniform can serve multiple purposes (especially if you consider things like helmets in football), but above all, for most sports, a uniform’s main purpose to identify the team. However, uniforms are so much more than that in gymnastics. In gymnastics, the uniforms matter more than in other sports because of the nature of the performance and artistic expression required in the sport, especially on the floor exercise.
“I do think that gymnastics is a performance sport, so I think what you are wearing is a part of that more so than just being function. I feel like it helps express, especially on floor exercise, expression and what you are wearing plays into it in our sport. It just does. If you think about over time Utah gymnastics and the leotards our girls have worn, we really have a history of some unusual colors at one time. My husband was the one that was always designing the leotards over all of time until just two years ago, and then I finally got a chance to do a little bit with that. I have enjoyed that” said co-head coach Megan Marsden.
When Utah switched to Under Armour back in 2011 (football switched first in 2008 and all other sports followed in 2011), former head coach Greg Marsden was able to design 12 different leotards for the team, some of which they still use. Greg Marsden was in charge of all uniform design for Utah gymnastics for 40 years until he retired after the 2015 season. Megan Marsden is now in charge of coming up with the new leotards.
“I would say one of the biggest changes came when Under Armour started to be involved with our athletics department and eventually with our uniforms and our leotards. They have provided us with some incredible leotards. When they started with us, Greg was able to design about 12 different leotards all in one year, so it gave him a chance to really put together a variety of things. We are still wearing many of those. Each year I try to rollover a couple, so we take a couple out, then and I design a couple to put in. The most recent thing being red. This year we had two different red leotards that I added to the fold. I’ll tell you, for our girls, their all-time favorite leotard is the black leotard with the big drum and feather all the in the beautiful glittery stones,” said Marsden.
The black leotard with the large drum and feather (which you can see in the image for this article) is what Utah wore for their final home meet of the year against Stanford, for the “Senior Night with the Stars.” Baely Rowe, the lone senior on the team, chose the uniform.
“Unless there is a coach that has a strong feeling, we allow the seniors to determine what leotard we are wearing for each meet, so this year it was Baely Rowe that was making those choices. I think once in awhile she asked for some input from a couple of other the older girls. Because she was a lone senior, I told her it is her final decision, and she wanted to wear the drum and feather leotard on senior night,” said Marsden.
“My favorite leo is the drum and feather. It is simple but flashy. I don’t know how to explain it. That drum and feather is not on a lot of our leotards. It is kind of interesting, and I think a lot of our fans love it,” said Rowe. “For the most part, the upperclassmen do help me with what leo to pick for every meet, but that was one night (senior night) they let me choose which leo to wear. It has been kind of a tradition over the past couple of years to wear that leo. I have always loved it, so that was my pick.”
A favorite leotard can be hard for some in the program to pick (though not Rowe), and it differs from person to person. Marsden prefers when the team is in all red because red is her favorite color. Stover likes “Super U” and in addition to the drum and feather and the red leotard Utah wore against UCLA (which is now called the “Silver Snitch” like the Golden Snitch from the Harry Potter books according to Rowe). The nickname “Super U” came for the all black leotard with the large red block U because former Utah gymnast Corrie Lothrop “did the Superman pose with it”, and the name stuck according to Rowe and Stover. The uniform with the funniest name has to be “Jewel Crack.” It is called jewel crack “because there was a jewel right on the crack,” according to Rowe.
During most weeks of the season, it was a combined effort of most of the upperclassmen on the team to choose the uniforms that they team would wear in addition to the other gear for meets and travel if it was an away meet.
“Week in and week out when we are in competition season, Baely and I get to work together with the other upperclassmen, Tiffani [Lewis] and Kari [Lee], to put together for what we are going to wear for the week. If it is a travel weekend, it consists of a little more because Megan likes when we match as a team at the airport, so we are very noticeable when we are walking around up to meet day what leo we are wearing. It is kind of fun. Luckily here at Utah, we have an amazing variety of things to choose from. We have fun piecing together the outfits and picking out the leo for home meets versus away meets versus postseason meets. It is kind of a fun little task when we are in season,” said junior Maddy Stover.
Not only does Stove help pick the uniforms, she is also prepares the travel checklist of equipment for Utah’s away meets. This includes all of the apparel for the travel day, for workouts, and for the meet. For NCAA regionals in Fayetteville, Ark. today, the list includes 23 different pieces of apparel that each gymnast on the team must bring. If one gymnast forgets one item, the whole team cannot wear it because they have to match. This may seem like a lot, but every piece of apparel has a purpose, and they always travel in style and look like a team.
The biggest regular-season meet of the year for Utah in 2017 was the home meet against UCLA. It was the first Utah regular-season meet to be broadcast on an ESPN family network, appearing live on ESPNU. UCLA is also one of Utah’s biggest rivals, and both teams entered the meet ranked in the top five in the nation. The Utah gymnastics marketing department made the theme of the meet a red-out and revealed the brand new leotard for the meet over the course of the week.
“I pushed for a red-out because I love the color red. I have a really hard time with blue because we have a lot of blue teams that we have gone against over time that are rivals. Now, UCLA being one, but BYU for many years and continues to be in our department. I am just not a blue lover at all for anything: in the clothing I wear, in the leotards my girls wear. I think some of our black leotards are gorgeous on the girls, but I really wanted to have some red for the meets where we were going against a blue team. That was fun. Marketing wanted to do an unveiling of a new leotard, and it was red-out, and I wanted to make sure the leotard was all red,” said Marsden.
The all red theme carries over to their other rival who wears blue: BYU. When Utah competes at BYU, Rowe said “we always wear red when we go there. When it comes down to warm-ups that we walk out in to the leotard we try to find the most red on whatever leotard we are going to be wearing because they are a blue team, so we want to show off our Utah red.”
One other promotion you could see from the gymnastics team in the next few years is a throwback. The Utah football team has done it with the interlocking UU logo, which Marsden says “is in the back of my mind as a possible logo that we might use at some point.” The main idea though would be to do a throwback to when Marsden was competing for Utah gymnastics. Marsden says though that that idea is “tricky.”
“There have been so many leotards, and to pick one to represent a throwback night could be tricky. To have all of the girls in different ones, that is not even allowed in the rules. They need to be matching. I don’t know exactly. It could be that the logo could help carry it a lot and just a style,” said Marsden.
While the Utah gymnastics team does have an equipment manager, Megan Freshour, they handle much of the apparel work themselves. Marsden designs the uniforms the uniforms for Utah now. Freshour does not handle the washing of the leotards. The uniforms stay in the gymnastics facility and are washed by managers. She does order the uniforms that Marsden designs and other Under Armour gear. “I like to be really hands on with [apparel],” said Marsden.
School pride is a key piece to Utah’s uniforms. Utah typically likes to emphasize either the U’s or drum and feather logo in front of the Huntsman Center fans. They like to emphasize who they are, what school they are from, and honor the tradition of the program with a history of over 40 years of excellence.
“I just know that we get a lot of compliments on how girls look in their leotards. Some of that has to do with the fitness and conditioning they do, and the pride they take in doing great gymnastics and needing a body fit and ready, and you put a leotard on that body, and most leotards are beautiful, but I think we spend a lot of time making sure we help them with an attractive leotard. I know they really like having school pride on their leotard, and so the drum and feather, or we have got one that has got little block U’s all over the upper body. We have got another one with a big, red block U on the chest. They love those especially rather than just a design. They really like the ones that say who they are,” said Marsden.
All of the hard work that the coaches and gymnasts put into designing the uniforms, choosing them for the meets, and then performing excellent gymnastics in them make the Utah Red Rocks the best dressed team in NCAA gymnastics.
“I have to say working with gymnasts, they tend to come to me as girly girls who care a lot about shopping and what they wear. For me, it has been a lot of fun over the years to help create an apparel ensemble each year that allows them to wear some of the cutest, trendiest things Under Armour puts out. I really enjoy that. I raised two boys. These girls are kind of my girls in terms of dressing them in cute stuff, and who better than my Utah gymnasts to put in really cute fitness wear, so it is a lot of fun,” said Marsden.