A year to remember: Top 10 stories from Utah Valley prep sports in 2021
Players, cheerleaders and fans celebrate around the championship trophy after the Pioneers defeated the Farmington Phoenix in the 5A state championship game at Salt Lake Community College in Taylorsville on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Isaac Hale, Special to the Daily Herald
Springville's Lauryn Deede (32) goes up for a layup during the 5A state championship game between the Springville Red Devils and the Farmington Phoenix held at Salt Lake Community College in Taylorsville on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Isaac Hale, Special to the Daily Herald
The American Fork baseball team makes a pile on the pitcher's mound after beating Pleasant Grove 8-0 for the Class 6A baseball championship at UCCU Ballpark in Orem on Saturday, May 29, 2021.
Spanish Fork head coach Natalie Jarvis gets doused with water after the 13-2 Don win over Mountain Ridge in five innings in Game 2 of the 5A Championship series at the Spanish Fork Softball Complex on Friday, May 28, 2021.
It won’t be long before when we write the date and put “2021” we will have to erase it and put “2022.”
The advent of a new year is a great time for evaluation and considering objectives that would be worth achieving in the next 365 days.
Before we get to that point, however, it’s time to take a look back.
The last 12 months features innumerable individual and collective highs and lows for high school athletes in Utah Valley.
Some enjoyed amazing successes while others faced daunting challenges or even heart-wrenching disappointments.
Each athlete probably has their own moments that they will always remember but when looking at the Valley as a whole, there were certainly some superlative performances that stood out.
Here is a look at the Top 10 stories from Utah Valley prep sports in 2021 (Note: The top wrestling stories are featured in this week’s Wrestling Update):
10. Runners up deal with being so close, yet not ending up as champs.
The last year featured some incredible teams that came oh-so-close to winning titles, only to see the road end in the finals.
Some examples include teams like Westlake boys basketball, Maple Mountain and Pleasant Grove baseball, Skyridge boys and girls soccer, Lehi girls soccer, Pleasant Grove and Mountain View volleyball and Springville football.
Although those teams didn’t get the trophies they wanted, they still should be tremendously proud of what they accomplished.
9. Skyridge girls and Lone Peak boys get top spots in tennis.
The Knights have been a tennis powerhouse for years and so it was no surprise that the boys squad once again reached the top of 6A.
The Falcon girls team had to see Lone Peak have a lot of success but flipped the script in the last two years, including winning the championship in October. Skyridge was carried by a pair of doubles championships that allowed the Falcons to hold off Layton.
8. Springville, Mountain View and American Fork continue tradition of cross country dominance.
This area always features some of the top cross country teams and 2021 was no exception.
Leading the charge where the Red Devil and Cavemen girls teams and the Mountain View boys teams, all of which won titles in their respective classifications.
Lehi senior Jefferson McMullin and Timpanogos junior Raygan Peterson also came in first in their races.
7. Lone Peak volleyball beats rival for 6A crown.
Anyone who is surprised that Lone Peak and Pleasant Grove played in the 6A title game hasn’t been paying attention to the sport for the last decade.
This year, behind excellent play at the net, the No. 3-seeded Knights secured a 3-1 (24-26, 25-15, 26-24, 25-15) victory over the No. 4-seeded Vikings for for its second straight state title.
Lone Peak has now won 10 state volleyball titles, which shows how consistent the program has been.
6. Spanish Fork softball exemplifies domination.
Few teams were as overwhelmingly impressive in 2021 as the Dons were on the softball diamond.
The Dons had an amazing year, losing only once in the regular season (on the road at Tooele) and then went on to route Mountain Ridge in two straight games in the championship series to give the Spanish Fork its eighth title.
The team went through a tough health scare when one of the players ended up in intensive care but was eventually able to rejoin the team.
5. Springville girls basketball wins title on buzzer-beater.
The Red Devils appeared to be in trouble when Farmington hit a tough shot with 10 seconds left to take a one-point lead in the 5A championship but with time on the clock and a talented team, Springville still had a chance.
As the final second ticked off the clock, Red Devil senior forward Lauryn Deede got the ball and drove into the lane, scooping the ball gently up toward the basket right before the horn sounded.
It bounced cleanly off the glass and nestled into the basket for the picture-perfect buzzer-beating layup. giving the Red Devils the heart-stopping 39-38 victory.
4. American Fork and Spanish Fork win dramatic baseball championships.
It was another phenomenal season on the diamond in Utah Valley as two traditional powers once again came up big.
Spanish Fork put together a late charge in Class 5A but found itself locked in a winner-take-all Game 3 in the title series against crosstown rival Maple Mountain. Don junior pitcher Zac Dart, however, kept the potent Maple Mountain batters off-balance long enough for the Dons to build a big lead as Spanish Fork cruised to the 14-3 victory and the eighth baseball title in school history.
In Class 6A, American Fork turned the 2021 season into a no-doubter, shutting out Pleasant Grove 8-0 at UCCU Ballpark in Orem to win the best-of-three series 2-0. With the win, the Cavemen claimed the Class 6A state title and finished with an overall record of 30-1, their only loss a 5-4 decision to the Vikings on May 7.
3. Lehi sweeps 5A boys basketball and football titles.
In both boys basketball in the winter and football in the fall, Lehi found it tough to get past Timpview in league play.
When it counted, however, no one could stop the Pioneers.
Lehi got huge performances from Noa Gonsalves (including a pair of clutch foul shots at the end), Tyson Hawkins and Peter Amakasu to beat Farmington in the 5A hoops championship, then saw quarterback Jackson Brousseau and the entire Pioneer defense play well to defeat Springville in the 5A football title game.
2. Lone Peak football stuns nationally ranked Corner Canyon — twice.
The Knights came into their Region 4 contest against the Chargers with a pair of tough losses (one to Nevada powerhouse Bishop Gorman and the other to Skyridge). Few gave Lone Peak a chance against the defending 6A champs who had won 48 straight games.
The Knights proceeded to stun everyone with a dominating 41-16 win — but could Lone Peak do it again?
Corner Canyon had a chance to avenge that loss when the two teams met in the 6A title game in November but the Knights were again up to the challenge.
The Knights needed monumental, heart-stopping plays from senior quarterback Easton Comer, junior wide receiver Crew McChesney, senior safety Dallin Moore, senior safety Takeao Hansen, senior running back Jaxson Willits and the entire Lone Peak offensive line — but all those pieces came together to make a masterpiece as Lone Peak outlasted the Chargers, 49-42, to win the 6A crown.
1. They got to play.
Wins and losses always matter to athletes, coaches and fans — but there hasn’t been a year where just playing has been appreciated like it was in 2021.
The repercussions of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced adjustments and flexibility at different times during the year, but — unlike 2020 when teams had to see their entire seasons cancelled — it was a season of competition on the fields, courts, diamonds, mats and pools.
That, more than any other story, was the highlight of the entire year for high school sports in Utah Valley.
Lone Peak boys golf keeps crushing the competition, wins eighth title in nine years … Pleasant Grove and Payson win boys wrestling titles, while Westlake and Maple Mountain win girls wrestling championships … American Fork holds off Westlake to win 6A boys swimming, while Lone Peak edged the Cavemen to win the 6A girls swimming title … Timpview wins 5A girls golf title … Wasatch boys soccer wins 5A crown … Track titles are won by the Orem boys, Timpanogos girls and Lone Peak girls teams … American Fork girls lacrosse beats Lone Peak for Division B title, while Pleasant Grove boys win Division C crown and Westlake boys are second in Division B.