Cougar gymnast, Ute kicker find love in enemy territory

Ari Davis
Makenzie Johnson Halliday performs on the beam event in the Huntmans Center in Salt Lake City in January 2014. Makenzie recently married a football player, Jon Halliday, who plays for U of U. (Ari Davis)

It’s a  modern-day collegiate Romeo and Juliet story.

BYU gymnast Makenzie Johnson Halliday couldn’t help falling in love with her now-husband and University of Utah football player Jon Halliday.

But her family is full of die-hard BYU fans.

Not only is the senior an all-around gymnast for BYU, her father, Lorne Johnson, swam for BYU and her mother, Alyson Johnson, played softball for BYU. She also has several other relatives who attended BYU.

“When we first started dating, but were not very serious, my parents were like, ‘Oh he’s a Utah football player, you could never marry him,'” Makenzie said. “Then when things were getting serious, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m thinking about marrying him, we’ve talked about it.’ They were like, ‘OK, are you sure? He’s a Utah football player.'”

The two met through a mutual friend and Facebook. The mutual friend was a BYU football player whom Makenzie knew from athletics and whom Jon knew from his high school football team. Jon saw a comment that Makenzie had made and clicked on her profile. He thought she was cute and noticed she was from San Diego, his hometown. Jon sent her a message and Makenzie responded back.

Jon and Makenzie went on their first date after a few weeks of chatting online. Makenzie realized her strong feelings after the second date and told her roommate she was going to marry Jon.

Makenzie and Jon Halliday pose for a picture (Makenzie Johnson Halliday)
Makenzie and Jon Halliday pose for a picture. The couple married on June 26, 2015 after about a year of dating. (Makenzie Johnson Halliday)

The teasing from family and friends lessened as their relationship progresses because the priority was not about which school the other attended. The priority was worthiness — of each other and the ability to take the other to the temple.

“There’s more important things, like finding someone worthy who can take you to the temple,” Lorne said. “Our focus was more on the potential outcome rather than ‘What school did you go to?'”

Makenzie and Jon got married on June 26, 2015 after about year of dating each other.

Now the newlyweds are starting the next chapter in their lives as husband and wife going to rival schools. But like any healthy marriage, there’s plenty of playful bantering and friendly teasing. The couple enjoys the rivalry, even on game day.

The Hallidays after a Utah football game. (Makenzie Johnson Halliday)
The Hallidays pose after a Utah football game. Mackenzie and Jon support each other during their games despite the intense rivalry between BYU and U of U. (Makenzie Johnson Halliday)

“I just support him in everything he does,” Makenzie said. “I go to all their home games and try to go to some of his away games. I support him because I know when gymnastics season comes around, he’ll be at all my meets and supporting me.”

Jon has been to his fair share of gymnastics meets. Few things would get him to trade in his Ute gear for anything BYU, but Makenzie is an exception.

“Last year when (Utah and BYU) played in gymnastics, I was giving her a hard time before the meet and saying, ‘You guys are going to get beat,'” Jon said. “But I was there, in my blue BYU gear. I’m not saying I’m a fan of BYU, but I’m a fan of BYU gymnastics.”

Makenzie and Jon support one another in good times and bad. Makenzie loves that her husband can get her to laugh and smile whenever she is upset and Jon loves his wife’s drive, hard-work and ability to love.

“I just love how she’s very competitive,” Jon said. “She’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to that next level in gymnastics.”

The couple not only supports each other, but also compromises. The Hallidays reside in Alpine, which takes both of them roughly 30 minutes to drive to school. Their days start early and end late because of their morning and afternoon workouts and classes. Makenzie and Jon do their best to be fair to the needs of the other spouse while balancing their school and athletic careers.

“It goes both ways where we have to support each other,” Makenzie said.

The BYU and Utah rivalry is no match for the love and respect between Makenzie and Jon. Although Makenzie has long dreamed of competing for BYU and Jon is passionate for the University of Utah, the priority for each of them is the well-being and happiness of their spouse.

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