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International Women’s Day: Impactful Women In The Utah Sports World

Photos: Deseret News/ Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – On International Women’s Day (and honestly every day) KSL Sports wants to recognize some of the wonderful women in Utah sports.

Women in sports are faced with near-constant adversity and women of color are faced with even more. Women are the minority in sports-related jobs – whether it’s media, working in a professional or semi-professional organization or being an athlete or coach. So on this day, take some time to appreciate the important work of these women.

While we should always support the women in any industry, today is a day to recognize, applaud and learn about a few of the women who help make the Utah sports world go around.

Amy Donaldson

Amy Donaldson’s career in sports journalism began in 2000 but before that, she worked for the Deseret News on both crime and education beats, according to the paper.

In 2015, Donaldson was recognized at the Utah sportswriter of the year. She has covered everything from high school parts to multiple Olympic games winning plenty of writing awards along the way.

Donaldson is well known for her coverage of sports that reaches beyond scores and statistics. Her readers always got the deeper story. She is the epitome of an exceptional, ethical sports journalist.

She is the only woman on this list I have had the opportunity to meet and can speak personally about. I could write plenty about how her writing and reporting have made me feel as a young female trying to make it in sports journalism but I will just say this – when faced with difficult situations in my work I often ask myself, “What would Amy Donaldson do?”

Megan Marsden

From elite gymnast to an even more elite coach, Megan Marsden spent her life making the University of Utah women’s gymnastics team a force to be reckoned with.

Marsden was a gymnast for the University of Utah from 1981-84 and won four national championships. As a coach, she led the Red Rocks to six national titles. Utah never missed a national championship in her 39 years with the program.

After her retirement, Marsden said her favorite part of coaching (and the reason she was so successful) was simply taking care of her girls. She also never called coaching “work.”

“It was just a life, a team and a gym,” Marsden said. “We worked hard to find people who wanted to be a part of our family.”

Red Rocks

Speaking of the University of Utah women’s gymnastics team, a list of influential women in Utah sports wouldn’t be complete without the most dominant team in the state – the Red Rocks.

The Red Rocks are the most heavily attended event in the Huntsman Center, they win their conference title nearly every year and they have 10 national championships to be proud of.

Beyond their dominance on the floor, the Red Rocks are engaged with their community hosting charity events for Soles 4 Souls, Pac-12 Team Green and U-Giving Day. It is not uncommon to see the team at youth events around the state.

There are dozens of former Red Rocks gymnasts who belong on this list for their elite abilities including McKayla Skinner, Missy Marlowe … etc.

Linda Luchetti

The Utah Jazz wouldn’t be the Utah Jazz fans know and love today without Linda Luchetti, Vice President of Basketball Operations.

Luchetti and her 30-years of sports marketing and public relations experience have helped to build the Utah Jazz and the Salt Lake Bees into what they are now. She also worked in PR for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics.

When Luchetti became the VP of Basketball Operations for the Jazz, she was one of only two women in the NBA to hold that title.

“It’s about player retention and recruitment,” she explained her job for a feature on LHM’s corporate website. “What can we do to be the best in the league at creating an atmosphere that our players want to be in and stay in?”

Liz Abel

Chances are if you’ve read, watched or heard any sports-related content from the University of Utah between 1989 and 2019 you have Liz Abel to thank for that.

Abel was the Sports Information Director for the University of Utah, meaning she coordinated all of the media coverage for Utah Athletics – that’s a big job and she was one of the first women in the country to hold the position. She played a key role in the rise of Utah Athletics.

“I couldn’t have done it without her. She was the main reason I was able to function in this position in dealing with media and the PR aspect of the job,” said Utah Football head coach Kyle Whittingham.

That is one of many testimonials from colleagues who all sound similar – they couldn’t have been successful at their jobs without Abel.

Gail Miller

Gail Miller is the reason the Utah Jazz will always be the Utah Jazz. She ensured fans they will always have their team by putting it in a trust.

Not only has she taken care of her team, but when things get hard or controversial – she takes care of her community. During an issue between Russell Westbrook and a Utah Jazz fan that made national news, Miller took it upon herself to address fans and remind of the importance of kindness and respect in this community.

After her husband Larry H. Miller passed away, she became the fearless leader of a multi-faceted company and has done an incredible job.

Jennifer Rockwood

In her 25 years as BYU’s women’s soccer coach, Jennifer Rockwood has led the Cougars to the NCAA Tournament 19 times.

The Cougars have dominant under Rockwood only posting two losing seasons since she started 1995. Her overall record with the team is 396-114-47.

A long list of All-Americans players have emerged from Rockwood’s influence. These athletes include Shauna Rohbock, Katie Larkin, Jaime Rendich Beck, Aleisha Rose, Michelle Jensen and Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall.

Holly Rowe

A University of Utah graduate and role model to every young woman trying to make it in sports Holly Rowe is a sideline reporter for ESPN. She is most notable for her reporting of college football but has also reported on women’s college basketball and volleyball.

When the WNBA’s Utah Starzz were in Salt Lake City, Rowe was an analyst for the team.

Rowe is also a proud Woods Cross graduate. She also went to Brigham Young University for two years.

Norma Carr

Norma Carr is currently the president of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation but is best known for her relentless work to have women’s high school sports sanctioned in Utah. Carr, a trailblazer for women in sports, was the first female referee to officiate USHAA boys basketball games.

On top of that, she was the first woman to coach Division I women’s sports at the University Of Utah.

She also served as the athletic direction at Salt Lake Community College for 25 years.

As the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation president Carr spearheaded the development and opening of the new Utah Sports Hall of Fame at City Creek in downtown Salt Lake City. A place where Utah sports figures will be honored and remembered.

Sam Gordon

Samantha Gordon is a 17-year-old football and soccer player from Salt Lake City. Gordon’s football abilities are dazzling. At 9-years-old, playing against all-male teams, she put up 25 touchdowns and 10 extra point conversions on 232 carries for 1,911 rushing yards in a single season, according to Wikipedia.

Her talents have gone viral as she serves as a role model and trailblazer for young girls who play or want to play football. Gordon is a founding member of the first all-girl tackle football club in America – Utah Girls Tackle Football League.

Gordon was the first female football player to ever appear on a Wheaties box.

Christen Press, Kellie O’Hara & Becky Sauerbraunn

Christen Press and Kellie O’Hara are current members of the Utah Royals and Becky Sauerbraunn is a former member. The three played on the world champion U.S. Women’s National Team that made headlines for not only becoming world champions but bringing attention to the gender pay gap.

In addition to shouting out the three USWNT members, it is important to bring attention to the Utah Royals organization as a whole. The Royals will soon enter their third season. The team is important to Utah as it serves as a place for young girls to see women playing in a professional sports league.

The Utah Royals’ general manager Stephanie Lee is another woman who is vital to Utah sports and deserves to be recognized.

Elaine Michaelis

Elaine Michaelis coached BYU Women’s Volleyball for 40 seasons. Her teams never posted a losing season between 1969 and 2002 and qualified for 30 of 33 national tournaments.

She also served as Director of Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics at BYU from 1995-2004, overseeing one of the country’s most successful intercollegiate women’s athletics programs.

Elaine Elliot

Elaine Elliot is the winningest basketball coach in University of Utah history (men or women’s). She coached the Utes’ women’s basketball team from 1980-2010 posting a 582–234 record.

During her time the team made 15 appearances in the NCAA tournament.

Olympians

Utah has countless women who have represented the state in both the winter and summer Olympics. All of whom serve as role models and trailblazers to women, young and old, across the state.

Noelle Pikus Pace, Tiffany Lott-Hogan and Shauna Rohbock are a few of the notable Olympic women with ties to Utah.

This list likely doesn’t name every woman who has made an impact on our sports world in Utah but it’s a start. Thank you, to all of the wonderful women on the list and not.

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