As 2020 draws to a close, most are likely celebrating having it in the rear view mirror.
It was a time of unique challenges, experiences, adaptations and frustrations.
But for Utah Valley high school athletes, it was also a time of enormous growth and development — perhaps more so than ever before.
Although there is much that most of us would like to forget, there are also some wonderful memories that should never be forgotten.
Here is a look back at the Top 10 stories in 2020 in Utah Valley high school sports:
1. COVID-19 shuts down spring sports
It was mid-March and things were just getting rolling for baseball, softball, lacrosse, boys soccer, girls golf, boys tennis and track and field teams. There was talk of this new virus that had spread across the world but it was still distant and unfamiliar.
Then everything changed.
In just a few days, the world and specifically the state of Utah began implementing shutdown procedures to attempt to limit the spread of the disease. On March 16, the Utah High School Activities Association announced a two-week suspension of all activities, a suspension that became a complete cancellation in April.
“We’re an extension of the school day with extracurricular and co-curricular activities,” UHSAA executive director Rob Cuff said in an interview with the Daily Herald in April. “We are very much a part of the education process. My staff and I have been involved in education as teachers and coaches and administrators. We’re in this together and all we can do is trust is this going stop or slow the spread of the disease and we can resume as soon as it is safe to resume.”
While there were no official state tournaments, when restrictions were lifted in May many spring sports squads were able to organize tournaments and exhibitions as "club" teams to at least get a few small opportunities.
2. Fall and winter teams manage quarantines and limitations
Many states in the nation continued prohibiting high school sports but Utah came up with ways to play all fall sports and begin winter sports.
It was very different than in past years, however.
Teams had to cancel games and delay practices when positive tests resulted in sweeping contact-tracing and quarantining efforts. Fan attendance at events was limited and masks became a huge part of sports, just like they did in all other parts of daily life.
With cases surging in November, state health guidelines postponed basketball, wrestling and swimming activities and required that the teams still playing in the football tournament get tested for COVID-19.
Positivity rates on the teams were drastically lower than health officials had anticipated, providing key data points to allow winter athletics to continue in December.
3. Orem football wins fourth straight title
In a year where the Tigers saw half their season eliminated because of COVID-19 issues, Orem still proved to be the best team in Class 5A.
The title game was a rematch of the 2019 classic as Orem once again had to knock off Timpview to get the championship trophy, although this time the game was played at Cedar Valley High in Eagle Mountain instead of at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Tigers got some luck when two of the top Thunderbird players — defensive lineman Logan Fano and running back Targhee Lambson — were unable to play for much of the second half and Orem pulled away for the 26-13 win to earn the school's fourth-straight title.
“I feel joy and happiness for the kids,” Orem head coach Gabe Sewell told the Daily Herald in November. “It’s all about them. They are the ones on the field. Our job as coaches is to funnel the energy in the right way so that they overcome things. They did that today. They were able to finish the game strong.”
4. Springville boys and girls basketball enjoys memorable finals
For the first time in recent history, the boys and girls state basketball tournaments were played at the same location (the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City). That made for a really special day for Springville hoops fans on Feb. 29 since the Red Devils had both their girls and boys teams competing for 5A state titles.
While the Springville girls ended up falling, 46-34, to Highland, it was a celebration for the Red Devil boys as they beat Timpview, 66-53, to win the state title.
The experience was a special one for the area.
“It’s what this community is,” Springville head boys basketball coach Justin Snell told the Daily Herald in February. “It’s such a unique place. We drove out to come to the championship game today and from the high school to the freeway the roads were lined with balloons and people. You don’t find that anywhere else. It’s amazing.”
5. Utah Valley volleyball continues dominance with 5A and 6A titles
Everyone in Utah volleyball circles knows that Utah Valley has some of the top talent in the sport year-in and year-out and 2020 was no exception.
The pandemic resulted in the title games being played at Hillcrest High in Midvale instead of at the UCCU Center in Orem but they still showcased impressive performance by area teams.
Lone Peak surged back to the top of the 6A ranks by defeating Copper Hills, 3-1 (25-18, 20-25, 25-18, 25-23). It was the fourth title in five years for the Knights.
The 5A final featured the defending champs from Mountain View taking on Timpview and needed five sets to determine who would emerge victorious. In the end, the Thunderbirds made the plays down the stretch to get the 3-2 (25-19, 25-27, 25-20, 23-25, 15-8) victory.
6. Wrestlers enjoy another impressive year
Even in a year as unique as 2020, taking down the traditional wrestling powerhouses wasn't in the cards.
For the eighth time in nine years, no one could stop the Pleasant Grove title train as the Vikings crushed the 6A competition. The margin of victory for Pleasant Grove was 83 points with two Vikings (Oakley Ridge and Jake Richardson) winning individual titles.
There was more drama in the 5A ranks as Wasatch and Payson once again dueled for the top spot. It took until late in the finals to determine which squad would have enough and it turned out to be the Wasps.
Wasatch edged the Lions, 243.5 to 234, to get the school's 24th state championship.
7. New venues still bring cross country drama — and championships
The COVID-19 situation forced the state cross country meet to leave its customary home of Sugarhouse Park in Sugarhouse. The 5A and 6A competition ended up taking place at Soldier Hollow in Heber Valley, while the other classifications competed in Cedar City.
Three Utah Valley teams raced their way to state titles as the Lone Peak and Springville girls teams as well as the Skyridge boys team ended up winning their respective classifications.
The Timpanogos boys team ended up just short of making it a clean sweep but — in part hurt by some health issues — ended up second in the Class 5A boys competition behind Farmington.
8. Trio of swim teams bring home state titles
It was another memorable day in the pool for local swimmers on Feb. 15 when the 5A and 6A state meets descended on the Richards Building at BYU.
It was an opportunity for the Timpview girls team to finally get over the top and end up with the highest spot on the podium. The Thunderbirds had been close in previous years but this was their time to shine as they crushed the 5A competition on their way to a 56-point win.
American Fork and Lone Peak continued to have far too much depth and talent for the rest of Class 6A as the Cavemen girls team and the Knight boys team each get state titles. It was the fourth straight boys title for Lone Peak and the third girls title for American Fork.
9. Timpview, Skyridge overpower girls tennis competition
The 5A and 6A state girls tennis meets at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City featured wins by a traditional power and by an up-and-coming squad.
Timpview is no stranger to girls tennis success, having won in 5A in 2018 and 2019. The 2020 competition followed the same script as the Thunderbirds blasted past everyone, winning titles in three of the five categories.
The results in the 6A battle were a little more unexpected, however, as Skyridge took home the first 6A title in school history. The Falcons were able to hold off Region 4-rival Lone Peak and had two girls win singles titles.
10. Few changes for Utah Valley schools in UHSAA 2021-23 realignment
While the COVID-19 pandemic turned a lot of things upside down in 2020, one area that had surprisingly little change was the new realignment that was selected by the Utah High School Activities Association.
In the non-football sports, Regions 7 and 8 will change numbers to become Regions 8 and 9 but otherwise weren't changed much. The new Region 7, however, will have Payson and Cedar Valley in a league with Cottonwood, Hillcrest, Stansbury, Tooele and Uintah.
The only change in the football-only reclassification is that Timpanogos will be in Region 7 instead of Region 8 (although both Timpanogos and Payson are currently independent in football).
The new reclassification will be implemented at the start of the fall 2021 season.
Lone Peak gets third-straight boys golf title, American Fork girls soccer falls in OT in 6A championship, Lone Peak football ends up as 6A runner-up, Westlake boys soccer wins Graduation Cup, Timpanogos and American Fork win Last-Chance tourney, softball teams play exhibition seasons, Cedar Valley concludes first year and starts second year of competition.