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Top 10 stories in 2018 for Utah Valley high school sports

January 1, 2019
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Pleasant Grove's William Cole Zorn and Luis Garcia grapple with one another as they wrestle in the 132-pound weight class during the UHSAA 6A and 5A State Wrestling Championships on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, at the UCCU Center in Orem. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Another year of high school sports in Utah Valley has been relegated to the record books, but for thousands of players, coaches and supporters, 2018 was a time for memories that will last forever.

Any of them would be able to come up with their own list of the moments that would be the most memorable for them.

Sometimes those were phenomenal team successes, other times they were individual achievements.

Here is a look at the Top 10 stories that had the biggest impact on Utah Valley prep sports in 2018:

1. Lone Peak wins

10 state titles It was very much the “Year of the Knights” in 2018 as Lone Peak won an amazing 10 of the 19 possible 6A sports state championships.

It started with a win in the state boys swimming competition in February, followed by an impressive run through the boys basketball tournament in March.

In the spring, the Knights won titles in girls golf, boys tennis and girls track and field — but the real success was in the fall as Lone Peak won the 6A competition in girls tennis, boys golf, girls soccer, volleyball and football.

2. State football finals feature four local teams

Nov. 16, 2018, was a day to remember for Lone Peak, American Fork, Skyridge and Orem as all four teams made it to the final day of the high school football season.

The Tigers came in with the biggest expectations, having completely dominated all of their 4A competition throughout the year. Led by talented players like Cooper Legas, Puka Nacua, Noah Sewell and a host of others, Orem won their second straight title.

Lone Peak’s defense and special teams propelled the Knights as they avenged a disappointing regular season loss to American Fork to win the 6A crown, while Skyridge couldn’t stay with undefeated Corner Canyon in the 5A title game.

3. Salem Hills sweeps 4A hoops titles

With cousins Lauren Gustin and James Nelson setting the pace for the Skyhawk boys and girls teams, the basketball squads headed into their 4A tournaments with big goals.

The Salem Hills girls team put together a sparking run, winning all four games by double-digits including defeating Hurricane, 57-35, in the championship.

It was slightly more challenging for the Skyhawk boys squad as it was pushed by Juan Diego in the finals before emerging with the 64-55 win.

4. Utah Valley shut out of baseball and softball titles

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the entire year was some disappointment on the diamond.

Utah Valley has long prided itself on elite-level baseball and softball, and regularly area teams have battled each other for the state championships of their respective classifications.

But 2018 was a year where other schools surged to the forefront. Only one area team — Spanish Fork, who lost to Bear River in Class 4A — reached the finals in either baseball and softball. Don’t expect that to be the case in 2019.

5. Pleasant Grove regains wrestling dominance, emerges as soccer power

Since 2011, the Vikings have been the team to beat in wrestling in their classification. After losing in 2017, however, Pleasant Grove was on a mission to get back to the top. The Vikings achieved that goal in 2018, once again winning the title in the state’s largest classification.

Pleasant Grove also came together on the soccer field, winning a dramatic penalty-kick shootout against Herriman in the 6A championship to get the school’s first boys soccer title.

The Vikings has solid success in other sports as well as they were also second in 6A in boys basketball, volleyball and boys swimming and fourth in football.

6. Realignment puts almost all Utah Valley schools in three regions

After being spread out over three classifications and four regions (five in football), the realignment for 2019-21 that was announced in December puts Utah Valley high school sports in a much more geographically-friendly situation.

All area schools except the new Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain will be in either Class 6A’s Region 4 (five local schools) or in Class 5A’s Region 7 (five local schools) and Region 8 (seven local school).

Cedar Valley will be in Class 4A’s Region 10, while Mountain View football will also play in Region 10. Many more old rivalries and local matchups will be big in determining league titles.

7. Area schools once again dominate cross country

It’s hard to debate the assertion that cross country is where Utah Valley is the most dominant right now.

Look at the 6A girls competitions, where American Fork won the title with Lone Peak getting second, Westlake coming in third and Pleasant Grove capturing fifth place. The Caveman boys dominated their 6A competition with Lone Peak getting fifth.

In Class 5A, Springville won the girls race with Timpview second and Timpanogos sixth, while in the boys competition Skyridge was second, while Timpanogos, Springville and Timpview came in fourth, fifth and sixth.

And don’t forget Lehi junior Anna Martin, who destroyed the girls course record when she won the 4A race in a time of 17:15.0.

8. Region 8 dominates boys track, Region 10 teams do well too

The running success also helped area teams enjoy success at the state track and field meet.

That was particularly evident in the 5A boys competition, as Springville held off Region 8 foes Skyridge (second), Wasatch (third) and Timpanogos (fifth) to get the state championship.

Although none of the Region 10 were quite strong enough to win in Class 4A, teams like Orem (second in boys, third in girls), Lehi (fourth in boys, fifth in girls), Mountain View (fourth in girls) and Spanish Fork (fifth in boys) had a strong showing.

9. Skyridge continues emerging as Class 5A force

Although the Falcons will move to Class 6A starting in fall of 2019, the school that opened in 2016 has already had a wide range of successes.

Skyridge was a strong competitor in Class 5A competition, winning state in volleyball, finishing second in football, boys track and boys cross country while getting third place in baseball. Jake Lambert and Seth Lambert won state in No. 1 doubles in 5A boys tennis.

They were also either first or second in Region 8 in boys basketball, girls basketball, boys soccer, boys golf and girls soccer, showing a consistent high level of performance across the board.

10. Shocking upsets eliminate elite teams in stunning fashion

The American Fork girls soccer had an eight-game winning streak and had only lost once heading into the 2018 6A girls soccer tournament, but Davis went on the road and stunned the Cavemen with two first-half goals and desperate defending down the stretch.

Other teams that ended up on the wrong end of surprising upsets in 2018 included the Timpview and Orem boys basketball teams, the Mountain View girls basketball team and the Spanish Fork baseball team.

Honorable mention

Cooper Legas of Orem won three titles (wrestling, javelin and football), giving him five straight seasons with a state championship; Provo’s Meghan Hunter wins the Class 5A 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and 800-meter races and also competes in Youth Olympic Games; Orem wins 4A boys tennis; American Fork wins 6A girls swimming; Springville’s Grant Gardner wins 5A cross country title and 5A 1,600 meters in track and field; Westlake’s Abby Jensen edges Lone Peak’s Ali Bybee in 6A girls 1,600-meter thriller.

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