UP TO THE NEXT LEVEL
by John Fackler
|Although Utah athletic teams were successful when Continuum
debuted in 1991, the phrase “reaching the next level” was commonly
heard among coaches and athletics department staff as something to strive
for. Back then, the notion that the U’s competitors could excel nationally
began to gain traction, and many individuals involved with Utah athletics
instituted a push for the U to move from a “good” school in
the realm of college sports to a “great” one.
In a sense, 1991 marked a turning point for U of U athletics. Athletic training facilities—once considered limited and a hindrance to growth—were upgraded and improved over the next several years, helping lay the foundation for creating a new athletic tradition. But above all, the athletes themselves have proved to be the best ambassadors for the U, attracting strong competitors in just about all areas.
Now, a mere decade and a half after those initial whispers of “reaching the next level” were heard in our hallowed halls, the U’s athletics programs are considered some of the most successful in the country. Thousands of outstanding student athletes, in revenue and non-revenue sports, have led the Utes’ charge to national prominence. Here, Continuum catches up with three former student athletes from the early 1990’s as they reflect on their time at the U, and how their lives have been forever altered through competition.
ALL-AMERICAN AS IT GETS
Utah now ranks as the only school where the gymnastics team has qualified for every NCAA tournament, and consistently leads the nation in gymnastics attendance with a strong following at regional and national championships.
Kristen Kenoyer Woodland BS’93 MS’96 can truly be called Utah’s most All-American gymnast, having helped capture NCAA team titles in 1990 and 1992. On the individual level, Kenoyer received 14 first-team All-America awards, ranking her third on the NCAA all-time list and first all-time among Utah gymnasts. She earned All-American status in floor exercise four times, uneven bars and all-around three times, and vault and balance beam twice each.
Kenoyer doesn’t mind that the state-of-the-art practice facility the team now enjoys wasn’t built in her Utah days, since she might not have met future husband and U swimmer Ed Woodland BS’93 MPA’95. “I was icing my ankle and Ed was icing his shoulder when we met. I told [gymnastics coach] Greg Marsden how thankful I was that we didn’t have the new building back then.”
Following graduation from the U., Kristen and Ed moved to Minneapolis where she put her master’s degree to good use in the nutritional consulting field.
The next move was to Eagle, Colorado in 2000. Upon finding that Eagle had no gymnastics program, Kenoyer started Alpine Gymnastics in 2001 and sold it in 2004.
She still occasionally judges gymnastics meets. “I pick and choose the meets I judge,” says Kenoyer. She has to be selective with her time, since child number five is due in June. “I love basketball, and now I’ll have my own team.” Kenoyer thinks the fifth child will be the “point guard,” joining starters Ross (8), Tara (6), Ian (4), and Grant (18 months).
Reflecting on her Utah experience, she of course recalls team and individual highlights, but also remembers the lasting influence of coaches and teammates. “We won two national championships, which was great. But I also loved practice, how hard we worked and the fun times as a team.
“A huge part of my life was shaped at the University of Utah. The people I met, the coaches, the friends all of them helped make me who I am today.”
BEATING BYU, BOOSTING CONFIDENCE
Many Utah fans might recall McCoy for his game-winning pass to Kevin Dyson BS’98 against Arizona in the 1994 Freedom Bowl, while being tackled by Teddie Bruschi. The bowl win was Utah’s first in 30 years and the Utes ended 1994 ranked No. 8 in the nation. Utah (and BYU) fans also remember McCoy guiding Utah to victories over BYU in 1993 and 1994. “Those games proved that we could compete with anyone in our league. They were a huge boost to the confidence of the program,” says McCoy.
But his favorite U memory was the dramatic 45-31 victory over Colorado State in 1994. “The game was nationally televised and a lot was on the line. It was the most physically and emotionally draining game I’ve been involved in.”
McCoy wells up with gratitude towards former Utah head coach Ron McBride. “I can’t thank Ron and Vickie McBride enough for the opportunity and support they gave me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without his believing in me.”
McCoy signed with Denver in 1995 and caught the interest of backup QB Bill Musgrave, who went on to coach at Carolina. Stints with Green Bay, Amsterdam (NFL Europe), San Francisco, and Calgary followed. In 2000, Musgrave was the Panthers’ offensive coordinator and Utah alumnus George Seifert BS’63 MS’66 was head coach. Together they lured McCoy to the Panthers as assistant offensive coach.
Although Carolina fired Seifert after the 2001 season, new Head Coach John Fox and renowned Offensive Coordinator Dan Henning retained McCoy, who has since thrived, helping transform Delhomme into one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
McCoy met his wife (and biggest supporter) Kellie at the U. “She understands what life is for a football coach,” he says. “And she knows enough to ask me some tough questions after the game.” The McCoys have two children, Olivia (6) and Luke (4). “Coaching requires long hours, but every Friday I’m there to meet Olivia at the school bus stop,” says McCoy.
“I’d love to be a pro or college head coach,” he adds. But while wishing current U Head Coach Kyle Whittingham no ill will, McCoy says, “I’d love to coach at Utah in the future. But I’m not one to take a position just to move up.”
Instead, “Because of previous rain storms, we played a triple-header,” says Edwards. “It was a marathon, but I had a good day.”
Good? Edwards went 9 for 10 with 3 home runs and 9 runs batted in.
Not bad for a sick guy.
Coaches knew that Edwards was something special. He was originally recruited by Head Football Coach Jim Fassel, and played two football seasons before switching to baseball full time (1990-91).
A standout third baseman, Edwards was selected All WAC both seasons and
as a second team All-American by the magazine Baseball America in 1991.
He still holds the highest single-season batting average in Ute history
with an amazing .457 average in 1991.
Drafted by the Texas Rangers, Edwards spent five seasons there. He returned to studies each off season, and in 1995, while working out on campus, he met future wife Kate Chidester BS’93, the football recruiting coordinator. “We just hit it off,” says Edwards. “I wish I’d met Kate earlier. She’s a lot smarter than me.” Kate and Mike are now the proud parents of Hannah (6) and Collin (3). A serious shoulder injury forced him to retire from the Rangers, but he’s thankful that the injury wasn’t debilitating. “The competitor in me wanted to keep playing, but the doctors urged me to consider my future. My shoulder still hurts, but I’m able to play with my kids,” he says.
Post-baseball, Edwards has spent nine years with Altria, the parent company of Kraft Foods and Phillip Morris products, as a sales manager. The Edwardses live in Sandy, Utah.
But Edwards hasn’t disappeared off the U of U radar. A football season ticket holder, he can be found at the tailgate lot before home games, and follows everything Utah. “I love the U. My experience there changed my life. I met Kate at the U. I go golfing and fishing with old teammates. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. It will always be a big part of my life.”
—John Fackler BS’89 BS’94 MprA’95, a crazed Ute fan, is director of business relations at the U’s Alumni Association.
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