When prep spring sports started up at the beginning of last month, I must admit I felt a little bit overwhelmed.
After all, there is more going in during the spring on the local high school scene than any other season, especially with the addition of boys and girls lacrosse as sports sanctioned by the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA). There are now eight spring sports sanctioned by the UHSAA, not to mention a handful of club sports, which is daunting to keep up with given the limited staff we have at The Herald Journal.
Fast forward to six weeks later and that’s a dilemma I would gladly welcome. The UHSAA announced Tuesday that all prep sports in the Beehive State would be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a glimmer of hope that spring sports would resume at the beginning of May, but those dreams seemed to fade with each passing day.
Quite frankly, it was a move I was expecting, although a big part of me refused to give up hope until the decision was official. The two biggest things that immediately came to my mind after Tuesday’s decision is I will never take sports for granted again, and I am absolutely gutted for all of our Cache Valley spring sports athletes, especially the seniors.
We have a lot exceptional athletes in our valley — young men and women who also have a lot of character — and my heart goes out to them. Truth be told, I’m trying really hard to not have my own pity party. I have been reporting on sports for The Herald Journal since the fall of 2003, and it’s been very difficult personally not to have any athletic events to cover. I can only imagine what these student-athletes are going through, not being able to see their friends, let alone play the sports they love.
I definitely felt a few local teams had a legitimate shot of capturing a state championship. It’s extremely unfortunate that opportunity will never happen.
Not only that, I fully anticipated several local seniors having big seasons, thus capturing the attention of college coaches. That will be much more of a challenge now that they won’t have the chance to showcase their talents at their respective state tournaments or meets.
I would suspect a lot of these seniors spent the rest of their high school careers refining their skills and paying their dues at the JV level while awaiting the chance to be impact performers for their respective varsity squads. Unfortunately, those aspirations have been dashed.
Indeed, I have a lot of sympathy for these seniors — most of whom won’t compete at the next level. As a result, I promise I will find a way to recognize all of the local seniors from their various sports.
In the meantime, here are some of the potential storylines we all missed out on:
n Was this the year a local baseball team terminated southern Utah’s stranglehold of excellence at the 4A level? I certainly think Mountain Crest was capable of claiming its first state title since 2009. The Mustangs, powered by a deep pitching staff, returned nearly their entire starting lineup from last year’s co-Region 12 championship squad.
And notwithstanding how good I believe the Mustangs are, I feel they would have received some great competition from teams in their own region. Bear River, Ridgeline and Green Canyon have solid programs right now, and head coach Todd Phillips has done a great job at Sky View.
• Ridgeline’s softball team got off to a strong start against a challenging schedule this season and appeared to be a bona fide 4A contender. However, I believe the Riverhawks would have been challenged for region supremacy by Bear River and Mountain Crest, which didn’t even get to play a game this spring. Green Canyon also got off to a promising start and appeared to be much improved from a year ago.
Like Mountain Crest, Preston hasn’t played a game this season. Spring sports haven’t been canceled in Idaho yet, but I would be surprised if the Gem State doesn’t suffer the same fate by the end of this week.
• Sky View’s boys soccer team made some incredible strides last season under the tutelage of head coach Jorge Cruz en route to knocking off defending 4A champion Desert Hills in the title match. The Bobcats graduated some very good players, but returned plenty of talent.
Logan always has dynamic players at its disposal, and I believe Green Canyon was headed for a breakthrough season on the pitch. Additionally, Mountain Crest has been a proven commodity at the region and state level over the past few seasons. The competition within the region would have been fierce, I believe.
• I was very curious how the local lacrosse programs would have performed during their first season as a sanctioned sport. A few of these teams didn’t even compete at the club level last year. I honestly don’t know a lot about the local teams, but I do know we have some very good athletes — guys like Green Canyon’s Jake Lundin, Mountain Crest’s Emilio Veater and Ridgeline’s Rhett Gebert.
• Like last year, the race for the Region 12 boys tennis crown would have been very intriguing. Eventual champion Logan, Green Canyon and Ridgeline were separated by a fraction in 2019. All three of those programs lost some veteran players, but also brought back some experienced varsity performers.
• Ridgeline’s girls golf team dominated the competition at the region level last year and also sparkled en route to prevailing at the 4A State Championships. However, the Riverhawks graduated three of their top four performers, including 4A silver medalist Alexis Wilson. I’m pretty certain there would have been a lot more parity among the Region 12 programs this spring.
• Cache Valley has several track & field athletes who are capable of moving on to the next level. Logan junior Jaylen Sargent might be the best prep long jumper in the Beehive State, although he will likely play college football.
Other local competitors who I feel would have been in the mix to stand on the top spot of the podium at their respective state meets are Preston’s Taite Priestley (high jump), West Side’s Jacob Moffat (800 meters, 1,600 and 3,200), Logan’s Bracken Taylor (400), Logan’s Milly Garren (discus), Mountain Crest’s Alisabeth Apedaile (100 hurdles), Logan’s Amber Kartchner (high jump), Ridgeline’s Olivia Smith (300 hurdles), Logan’s Bo Stearns (high jump), West Side’s Ashlyn Willis (800) and West Side’s Bryler Shurtliff (high jump).