By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography) & Kurt Johnson
Picking the top anything of the year is never an easy proposition, and as we complete our third list of top Utah high school sports stories of the year for Preps Utah, we found that this list is no exception.
For the 2013-2014 school year, we released our Top 20 stories of the year, but this year, we have expanded our list to 25 stories, some of which combine multiple events that share common themes. Since the goal is not to be exactly right, as anything of this nature is entirely subjective, but to recognize as many of the great accomplishments of the student athletes across the state as we can, we hope you will understand.
Beginning July 13 and continuing for the next three weeks, we will release one or two items on our list per day, beginning with No. 25 and working our way up to story No. 1.
#25 (tie) – Spring Repeats at Stansbury and Skyline
It is not all that uncommon for teams to repeat as state champions, but as the 2014-2015 sports year wound down, two of the last teams to make it two (or more) in a row come together to make up our No. 25 story of the year. Since we could not choose between them, we have a tie for the 25th position between the state title performances of Skyline boys soccer and Stansbury softball.
Skyline Boys Soccer
Skyline backed up its 2014 state boys soccer title with another championship this season. It did not necessarily look like a championship season from the outset for the Eagles, but when it mattered, this was a team that delivered.
A trio of talented seniors led the way all year long for Skyline, as midfielder Brigham Jackson earned Class 4A MVP honors, while striker Hunter Kone (12 goals) and goalkeeper Will DeSantis were selected first-team all-state. These three were critical as the Eagles went from a four-loss team that tied for the Region 7 title (13-6-1 overall) to a repeat state champion by the time the dust settled at Rio Tinto Stadium.
By the time, a little of the heroics had been claimed by a freshman, as Andrew Garcia buried the eventual game-winner in a penalty kick shootout to close out the title game. Just as the season as a whole had not been an easy run for Skyline, the state championship game required a ton of hard work and a little bit of luck.
The Eagles benefitted from an own-goal for their only tally of the contest, and then played East to a 1-1 draw through regulation and two overtimes before taking the shootout by a 5-4 count. The result was a different kind of win than the much more dominating performance that captured the 2014 title over Logan, but both resulted in banners for Skyline.
Stansbury Softball Makes It 3 Straight
Winning state championships never gets easy no matter how many times you’ve done it. Exhibit A comes from the Stansbury High softball team.
The Stallions might play in Class 3A, but they are one of the best teams in the state. A 26-4 overall record included an unbeaten run through five games in the state tournament, but also featured regular-season non-region wins over Copper Hills, one of the best teams in Class 5A, and Springville, one of 4A’s best.
With a target on its back as a two-time defending champion and all of that tournament experience, the third title was perhaps more elusive than the first two. After opening a lead against Bear River in the title game, the Stallions and pitcher Kimbri Herring had to survive a late rally to capture consecutive championship No. 3.
The task was made more difficult by the weather, with rain messing with the tournament schedule, and by a key injury on Friday that left Stansbury playing through Saturday’s state finale without its starting shortstop and leading hitter, junior Anjalee Batchelor. Batchelor, who finished the season with 17 doubles and seven home runs, was not available at the end of the tournament, but junior Alyssa Guymon, who usually plays third base, shifted over and stepped up.
It helped, of course, to have a senior like Herring in the circle with her 25-4 record, and talented senior catcher Jade Callister as an anchor. The honors flowed for this team after the season as well, as the Deseret News selected Herring as its Ms. Softball with Callister, Batchelor and Guymon on its all-state first team.