The 2019 seasons of high school athletics in Utah County was one of major shakeups in the prep landscape, as well as many state championships won by local teams. Here’s a look at the top 10 stories for high school sports in 2019.
1. New rating percentage index changes playoff system
One of the biggest changes to high school team sports in years was announced last January when the Utah High School Activities Association introduced the new playoff format.
The UHSAA’s posted statement to explain its reason in going from the straight region standings seeding process that was previously used states: “The RPI system will be an accurate reflection of all regular and region/postseason games. Teams could be seeded into the state bracket based on their RPI ranking versus the previous region rotation which could result in the top teams in the same side of the bracket. Classifications with unbalanced regions will also have better representation in the state tournament.”
The changes were implemented for the 2019 fall team sports (football, volleyball and girls soccer) and the reviews were mixed. For the first time, just about every team was invited to participate in their respective tournaments — which was good and bad, since some teams got wins while others ended up getting crushed.
2. Realignment again changes classifications around
It was time once again for the implementation of new regions and changing of classifications in the UHSAA’s every-other-year reclassification process. The new alignment went into effect at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.
In Utah Valley, the majority of the public schools were put in either Class 6A or Class 5A, with almost all being slotted in Region 4, Region 7 or Region 8. The new school in Eagle Mountain, Cedar Valley High School, started competing in Class 4A this year, as did Mountain View’s football team.
While not unexpected, the results did create more inter-valley state playoff matchups in the fall — especially in Class 5A
3. Cedar Valley opens doors in Eagle Mountain
For the first time, the growing community of Eagle Mountain on the west side of Utah Lake is able to have its high school students stay in town. Athletic teams went through the ups and downs that come with being a first-year school as the Aviators got things started in August of 2019.
The biggest success was that of the girls soccer team, a squad that finished 12-6 and came in second in Region 10 (including beating the eventual state champs from Ogden).
The football, volleyball, cross country, boys golf and girls tennis teams finished their first seasons while the boys and girls basketball programs and the swimming programs are halfway through as they prepare to start 2020.
4. Successful coaches choose to step down
There is no doubt that there are going to be some big coaching shoes to fill at a number of high schools in Utah Valley. Coaching changes are part of high school sports but this year saw so high-profile changes.
Three examples are the retirements of Spanish Fork softball coach Don Andrews, Provo football coach Tony McGeary and Pleasant Grove volleyball coach Allyce Jones. While their reasons were different, they each left a huge mark on their respective sports and won’t be easy to replace.
5. Orem wins third straight football title
After winning 4A titles in 2017 and 2018, it wasn’t clear how the Tigers would do when they moved up a classification and played against bigger schools.
During the regular season, Orem had some ups and downs, losing four games (including three to in-state competition).
When it mattered most, however, the Tigers got impressive performances across the board including a heroic fourth-down touchdown run by senior Noah Sewell — the 2019 Utah Valley Football Player of the Year — in the championship as Orem again went all the way to the top.
6. American Fork boys basketball makes magical run to 6A title
Twice during the 2019 boys basketball season, 6A leviathans American Fork and Pleasant Grove clashed with the Vikings coming out on top in both Region 4 showdowns.
In order to get a third shot at Pleasant Grove, however, the Cavemen needed a miracle finish in the 6A semifinals against Davis. Thanks to a monumental effort by Tanner Cuff (the 2019 Utah Valley Boys Basketball Player of the Year) American Fork escaped with a two-point win in triple-overtime.
The Cavemen carried that momentum into the title contest against the Vikings, building a lead late and holding off Pleasant Grove to win the 6A state title.
7. Area schools sweep wrestling titles as Pleasant Grove wins seventh title in eight years
Utah and Heber Valleys have established an impressive reputation for success on the mats over the years and 2019 was no exception.
Cole Zorn and Maika Tauteoii may have been the only individual champs for Pleasant Grove but 16 total Viking wrestlers ended up placing to help rack up the 311.5 points the team had — 44 more than second-place Layton — to get the seventh first-place trophy in eight years for the school.
Payson won its fourth state title in the decade, winning the 4A title, while Wasatch won the 5A championship.
8. Pleasant Grove, Mountain View volleyball secure state championship trophies
As the Vikings and the Bruins prepared for their respective volleyball title games, they knew they had their work cut out for themselves. Each had the No. 1-seeds (Copper Hills in Class 6A, Farmington in Class 5A) standing in the way of the title.
Both Pleasant Grove and Mountain View proved up to the task as they both won in four sets, making it another big day for volleyball in Utah Valley.
It was the fourth title in eight years for the Vikings, who have played in eight straight title games, while the Bruins won their first title since 1982.
9. Lone Peak golf and tennis continue powerhouse ways
Few schools are able to boast the type of dominance in any sport that the Knights have established in tennis and golf.
Lone Peak won all of the 6A state titles in both sports in 2019 as the boys tennis team won its fourth straight crown, the girls tennis team won its third straight championship, the boys golf team won its sixth title in seven years and the girls golf team won its third title in four years.
The Timpview girls tennis team and girls golf teams also won 5A titles.
10. Lone Peak and American Fork dominate 6A swimming
The Knight and Cavemen swimming teams spend a lot of time together, so it wasn’t really surprising that they were all elated with their successes in the 2019 6A state swim meet at BYU.
At the end of the day, each school brought home one first-place trophy and one second-place trophy. American Fork won the girls swimming title and came in second in the boys competition, while Lone Peak won the boys meet and was the runner-up on the girls side.
Honorable mentions: Pleasant Grove baseball beats Lone Peak for 6A title, American Fork girls soccer wins second 6A title in three years, Provo and Lone Peak girls teams win state track and field crowns, Lone Peak and Springville girls cross country teams win championships.