Athletic trainers recognized at state awards banquet

CEDAR CITY–The Utah Athletic Trainer Association (UATA) recently held their awards banquet for 2017, and for the first time ever, held it at Southern Utah University. Nearly 100 athletic trainers from all over the state of Utah were in attendance, and at it, several Intermountain Sports Medicine trainers and leaders were recognized for their exceptional work in 2017.

Rhett Farrer, Intermountain Sports Medicine Physical Therapist and Athletic Trainer, was awarded with Utah’s 2017 Athletic Trainer & Administrator of the Year. Mike Tolman, Intermountain Sports Medicine Athletic Trainer at Dixie High School, was awarded High School Athletic Trainer for 2017, and Ricky Mendini, recently retired after 24 years at SUU, was awarded Utah’s 2017 College Athletic Trainer of the Year. His daughter Melissa, Intermountain Sports Medicine Athletic Trainer at Cedar High School, and who has followed in her dad’s footsteps, presented his plaque.

Other notable events at the ceremony: Ben Davidson, retired SUU Athletic Trainer, was inducted into the UATA Hall of Fame. Dr. Robert Nakken, Cody Bremner PhD, Jona Droubay PT, ATC and Kregg Lunt PT were featured speakers at the event.

Farrer was recognized for “his outstanding leadership in guiding our teams in the pursuit of exemplary clinical care, service excellence and safety, ” said Ted Huginin, Director of Rehab Services and Sports Medicine.  “Rhett has always been an advocate for the student athlete and committed to team based care, which are at the heart of our program’s vision.  He is most deserving of this award.”

Farrer is from St. George, married to Kimberly, and has three children. He started his career at Dixie Regional Medical Center in 1991, before coming to Cedar City Hospital in 2014 as the Sports Medicine Manager. Currently he leads a team of 25 athletic trainers in the southern Utah area for Intermountain Healthcare: Iron County, Washington County, Dixie State University and Southern Utah University. He played basketball for the College of Eastern Utah, before going to the University of Colorado obtaining his physical therapy degree and finishing his athletic training degree from the University of Utah.

Farrer says he loves southern Utah and taking care of the student athletes both at the high school and university settings. “I didn’t even know that I had been nominated until just before the meeting,” he said. “I am grateful to be able to have worked with Ricky Mendini and Mike Tolman, among the many other outstanding athletic trainers and leaders.  We have an all-star team of athletic trainers here in southern Utah!”

Mendini, a native of Logan, Utah, is married to Shauna, the current Dean of the College of Performing and Visual Arts at SUU, and they have two daughters, Caela and Melissa. He graduated from Utah State with a degree in Physical Education in 1979, and then moved down to the University of Arizona in pursuit of a Masters of Education in Athletic Training, working as the graduate assistant for football and track; graduating in 1981. He was then hired by the University of Arizona as the Assistant Athletic Trainer for men’s basketball, until 1985, when he accepted a new position at New Mexico State as the Head Athletic Trainer-Associate Athletic Director for the next eight years. In 1993, he accepted the Head Athletic Director position at SUU. Two years later, the title of Associate Athletic Director was added to his impressive resume.

Speaking on Mendini’s UATA University Trainer of the Year, Farrer said “Ricky has faithfully served SUU and the athletes here for 24 years, and throughout his exemplary career.  One of his greatest satisfactions in his career has come from the hundreds of students that he has mentored over the last 38 years. Ricky has set the bar extremely high in his care of athletes. He hasn’t cared if you were a full scholarship athlete or a freshman 4th string punter; he has treated all athletes with utmost care and skill.”

One notable story from Mendini’s career: A basketball player’s father was assassinated in Lebanon. It was he that delivered this news to his player, and then spent the following day and any time needed with this athlete, not as his athletic trainer, but as a parent, mentor, and true friend, to ensure his player had strong support during a terrible time in this player’s young life. The player was Steve Kerr, the current coach of the Golden State Warriors.

Farrer said, “Wherever I go and they hear about SUU, they will first ask about Ricky, and then they’ll say, ‘I love that guy, he took great care of me.”  What a great legacy! Ricky has a heart of gold, and gives the gold standard of care.”

Rhett Farrer pictured with, from left, Corrine Nyman, and Valerie Herzog, UATA President

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