Just over a week after the Elk River gymnastics team competed in its first state tournament since 1994, a former assistant coach on the 1993-94 Elk River team that made the 1994 state tournament achieved a milestone on March 13.
Minnesota native Tom Farden won his 100th meet as head coach of the Utah Utes gymnastics team on March 1. No. 4 Utah defeated No. 13 Washington 197.675-197.600 at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle. It also clinched the inaugural Pac 12 regular-season title for the Utes.
Farden said that his 100th win was about the gymnasts not about himself.
“For me, it’s just a number,” Farden said. “It’s always been about the kids and the athletes and making sure that we’re doing a good job preparing them for competitions. Through your preparation [and] your planning, the wins are a by-product.”
Farden has been with Utah since 2011 when he joined the Utes as an assistant coach after serving as an assistant coach with Arkansas in 2010. He became co-head coach in 2016 along with Megan Marsden. When Marsden retired after last season, Farden became sole head coach. He was a coach for TAGS Gymnastics, a Minnesota-based gymnastics program for children from 1996-1999. In 2000, he joined Southeast Missouri State as an assistant coach as served as the Bears head coach from 2004 to 2009.
Farden started gymnastics as a young child. He said he wasn’t a very good gymnast but decided that he wanted to make it his career.
“The fascination with how skills work and how preparation works and then multi facets of preparation: practice planning, sports psychology, strength and conditioning, flexibility, physical therapy, everything that embodies a complete athlete was totally fascinating to me,” he said. “I wanted to see if I could apply some of the principles that I’m constantly learning even to this day and see what happens.”
Freshman Abby Paulson is the sole Minnesotan on the Utes. Paulson is from Anoka, Farden’s hometown and both she and Farden are Anoka High School alumni. Paulson said she received recruiting letters from Utah at a young age and always had interest in the school and thinks its crazy that Farden has 100 wins only five seasons into his tenure.
“It’s something that’s so incredible and so fun to be a part of,” Paulson said. “It was a huge milestone. The fact that it was also the regular-season Pac-12 championship—it was two amazing things in one meet. The team made it even better. He didn’t even know it was going to happen.”
After the meet against Washington State, Utah gymnastics’ Twitter account tweeted that Farden had won his 100th meet at Utah with a graphic of him stretching his arms out triumphantly next to the words “Tom Farden—100 Wins at Utah.”
Paulson said Farden is a great coach because he cares about the Utes both as gymnasts and as women.
“He gives us whatever he needs equipment-wise,” Paulson said. “He’s there to support us through everything, making sure we have every possible opportunity to succeed. It’s amazing.”
The Utes program is one of the most successful in NCAA history. Since the Utah program began in 1976, the Utes have won nine NCAA titles and 10 national titles. However, Utah hasn’t won a national championship since 1995.
Farden said ending a 25-year NCAA championship drought would ignite Utah’s fanbase. The Utes have one regular-season meet remaining against Utah State on March 13 at Jon M. Hunstman Center in Salt Lake City. The Utes will then compete at the Pac-12 championships on March 21 at Maverik Center in West Valley, Utah.
“It would put the cherry on top of a very special year,” Farden said. “We lost arguably one of the best gymnasts in the history of NCAA gymnastics, Mikayla Skinner, as she takes a gap year for the Olympics. There was a lot of uncertainties. Everything works into process. The symphony is not tuned in tightly yet. As a conductor, there’s some things that we still need to be hitting on and timing. We’re going to try and narrow that down as we head into this last little bit of season, tighten some things up and make sure that the music we’re hearing is absolutely perfect.”