By Emily Pascua, sports editor of The Speaking Eagle
Beginning this August, Juan Diego Catholic High School athletes will face new opponents in all athletic and extracurricular events.
The Utah High School Athletics Association has been reorganizing regions and classifications every two years. However, it does not seem that a change this drastic has happened in some time.
Due to the move of one current 3A team, Uintah, into Class 4A, the Soaring Eagle were left as an outlier in previous Region 10. UHSAA then had to find the most reasonable way in organizing the remaining schools in the 3A pool and separate them in regions according to location.
Juan Diego was placed with the northern schools and therefore became a member of region 11, meaning the teams will no longer be driving multiple hours to play Union, Park City Uintah. The Soaring Eagle will instead face Morgan, Ben Lomond, Bear River and Logan High Schools for all sports and activities with the exception of football.
This alignment includes debate, cheer, band, choir, drama and drill for tournaments and competitions. Logan will be coming down from the 4A classification and Morgan has moved with Juan Diego from Region 10 to Region 11.
All five of these high schools, including Juan Diego, have combined for more than 100 state championships, as well as a significant number of region championships. Entering this new region, travel time for Juan Diego teams to league away games will be cut by more than four hours and 500 miles.
This drastic change means the school’s teams will compete against new teams that have proven tough in previous region and tournament play. Athletic Director Chris Long thinks the change will benefit Juan Diego as a whole, bringing in new competitors to the those the teams typically play.
Entering a new region and different division for football, Juan Diego is about to be tested and challenged in more ways than one.
The classifications for high school football in Utah, however, have recently taken on a different structure. UHSAA has divided the 3A classification into two different classifications for football only, making those regions and schedules vary from those of the other sports.
Previously in 3AA, Soaring Eagle football will now move down to the 3A classification to battle against Carbon, Emery, Grantsville, Morgan and Union in the 3A North region.
“I support the change,” Long said. “We simply don’t have the numbers we normally do. We will have significantly less (athletes in football) and one of the reasons is with all the hype about concussions and injuries as such.”
Sophomore Becca Curran participates in volleyball, basketball and track at Juan Diego. She notes that being a part of Region 11 would be just like playing an extended pre-season.
“The first few games will be interesting and we are going to have to learn how to play to their style, but it won’t be much different than a pre-season game,” Curran said.
While sports will be put to their own tests, drill and debate teams will be challenged as well. Current repeating five-time state champion debate members will compete against new opponents and the drill team will compete against some new teams and notably not against typical 3A power Uintah, which now becomes a challenger for the 4A title.
The re-alignment also allows for more time in the classroom. Student athletes will have longer to be learning during school, leaving less make-up work to do on game days. Coaches and teachers will have more time learning and less time on a bus traveling due to the dramatic change of venue for games.
Scott Platz, boys head soccer coach, girls assistant soccer coach and history teacher at Juan Diego, is also looking forward to the change.
“I am really cognizant about keeping kids in school and I don’t like the fact that kids miss so much,” Platz said. “It is really an issue for the students not being in class. All of this will hopefully help with the amount of class time missed.”
Both Long and Platz agree on the upcoming challenges that lie ahead for the Soaring Eagle. Boys basketball was defeated by Bear River during the pre-season of the 2014-2015 season and will have another opportunity to face them next year.
Although the challenges will be tough, Long is undoubtedly excited for the upcoming athletic year. Juan Diego is going to be more competitive in more sports during region play as well as during state tournaments.
Accoring to Platz, Juan Diego boys and girls soccer will not be looking to change their daily and seasonal plans due to the new opponents.
“I think in any situation you are tailoring your game plan to the opponent,” Platz said. “Either way you have an opponent and a game to win, so I am not going to change anything as far as preparation is concerned.”
This change has had state champion Curran looking forward to playing against different opponents.
“I think that it was time for a change,” Curran said. “It is just the same (teams) every time; we are looking for new competitors.”
Juan Diego Catholic High junior Emily Pascua, sports editor for the school’s award-winning student newspaper, The Speaking Eagle, wrote this story as part of the Preps Utah/Nu Skin student journalism program.