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‘Truly a dream come true’: A letter from Kim Tessen to Utah gymnastics

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Utah gymnast Kim Tessen performs her floor routine during the Red Rocks Preview gymnastics event at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. 

Colter Peterson, Deseret News

Editor’s note: The Deseret News received this letter ahead of Utah gymnastics’ regular-season finale against Utah State and prior to the cancelation of the 2020 NCAA gymnastics season.

SALT LAKE CITY — How do you go about telling a story that was a lifetime in the making? Even if you shorten the time frame to say, an athlete’s four years in college, how do you put into words the impact and meaning of a collegiate career? That is the challenge every single year come senior night. This year, rather than making an ill-fated attempt, I decided to let the gymnasts speak for themselves.

Here is what Utah senior Kim Tessen had to say.

“The past few years have truly flown by, and it’s hard to know where to start. I would first and foremost like to thank my parents and my sister for the great amount of dedication and sacrifice that they have made on my behalf so that I can continue to do what I love. I was just a little girl with a big dream, and they have always supported me and believed in me.

“I had always imagined what it would be like to run out of the tunnel before a meet, with the crowd cheering for you as your name is called … And I can tell you, it is just as magical as it looks.” — Kim Tessen

Unfortunately, my whole gymnastics career has been plagued with injuries and I have been through a lot of pains, aches, and bruises (and broken bones). I know that it hasn’t been easy for my family to watch me struggle through all of it, but they have watched all the hard times pay off over the years, and so have I. That is what my time at the University of Utah has felt like. All of my hard work and pain has finally paid off. 

I grew up in Utah, so naturally, I attended some Utah meets as a young gymnast. When I first started gymnastics, I wanted to go to the Olympics. That dream was cut short due to the frequent injuries I was experiencing while attempting to train for the elite level. Only when I became a teenager did I start to consider collegiate gymnastics. The scene at the University of Utah was so intriguing to me. The gymnasts are basically at a celebrity status and the team is always in the top 10 at the end of the season. I told myself that one day I will end up at a top 10 program, with Utah being my first choice.

A very long story short, I committed to the U. going into my senior year of high school. This is where I would like to thank my club coaches, Dawn Johnson and Jimmy Pratt. They truly changed not only my gymnastics, but my life. I started training under them at a very low time in my life, and they helped me rebuild my confidence in my gymnastics and in myself. I will always hold the lessens that I learned from them near and dear to my heart. Their support and the time that they invested in me means the world. 

I’d like to thank Tom (Farden) for all of the opportunities that he has provided for me the past several years. He took a chance on me, and I hope he agrees with me that it was a very good chance to take.


Utah’s Kim Tessen competes on the bars during the Arizona State-University of Utah gymnastics meet at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. 

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

As I mentioned before, my whole career has consisted of many injuries, and that didn’t come to a stop when I got to the U. My freshman year I needed ankle surgery within the first few weeks of arriving. During my first season, I tore my right Achilles tendon, and after my sophomore year I got my second shoulder surgery on my right shoulder. The fall of my junior year I tore some things in my left shoulder, and I am continuing to battle through that until I am done. Tom continued to help me believe in myself and my abilities, even through the hardest of times.

I would also like to thank Megan (Marsden) and the time that she has given to me. Her sweet spirit and her love for gymnastics and the university has definitely made my time here that much better of an experience. We’ve had several changes in our staff the past few years, but I would really like to thank Carly (Dockendorf), Garrett (Griffeth), and Courtney (McCool Griffeth) for being outstanding coaches and role models, and for making my senior year one of my best years yet.

It wouldn’t be right for me not to thank our athletic trainer, Katie Lorens. Katie is an amazing, smart, and caring woman and I could not be more thankful for her. I owe much of my success here to her and she does not get as near as much credit as she deserves for holding our team together (quite literally).

I would also like to give a brief shout out to our athletic department’s psychology and wellness team. I have utilized this resource my whole time here as an athlete, and I am so incredibly grateful for them and the time and commitment they show to all of the athletes. Mental health is something that I really emphasize in my life, and even through all of my struggles, I know that I have become stronger from using the resources that they provide for us.


University of Utah gymnast Kim Tessen celebrates her 10 on the vault in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 6, 2020. Tessen was the MVP for the meet.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Last but not least, my teammates. The opportunity to compete here with the girls who have become some of my very best friends is something I would never trade away. The time that I get to have with all of them is one of the things that I will miss the most. All of the traveling, conditioning, early morning practices are just that much easier with your teammates by your side. The relationships that I’ve built with them over the years is something that I will cherish forever.

That about wraps things up. I had always imagined what it would be like to run out of the tunnel before a meet, with the crowd cheering for you as your name is called. … And I can tell you, it is just as magical as it looks. Competing in the Huntsman Center with all of the fans there to watch you is an unmatched experience. Being a gymnast here at the University of Utah is truly a dream come true. Those closest to me know that this sport has taken me to hell and back, but now I can say with certainty that my time here has made all of it worth it.”