High school sports: More than 600 athletes taking talents to college on scholarship

Published: Monday, June 24 2013 5:35 p.m. MDT

The ultimate goal for any high school athlete is winning a state championship, a reality roughly 1,000 kids experienced during the 2012-2013 school year as the UHSAA handed out 86 state championships.

Kealia Ohai took the dream one step further last December when the former Alta High star led North Carolina’s women’s soccer team to an NCAA championship. Ohai scored in both the semifinals and final to spearhead the championship.

It was certainly a rare moment for an athlete from Utah to win an NCAA championship, an opportunity more than 600 graduates from the 2013 graduating class will try and duplicate in the coming years.

After contacting coaches and athletic directors from every high school in Utah, in addition to sports information departments at each of the in-state colleges, the Deseret News has compiled a list of the estimated 634 seniors from the 2013 graduating class who have received athletic and/or academic scholarships to play college athletics.

Of those 634 athletes, 264 signed with major universities. Of the bunch, 357 are staying in state, while 277 are heading out of state.

The payout isn’t huge for some — books might be their only compensation. For blue chippers like Cottonwood quarterback Cooper Bateman, they’re getting a full ride.

Of the 634 recipients, 326 are boys while 308 are girls. The 326 scholarships for the boys is a noteworthy bump up from the 289 last year.

Davis High led the way with 27 scholarship recipients, followed closely by Bingham with 26. Riverton was third with 23 scholarships, followed by Brighton with 22.

With participation numbers that dwarf all other sports, 120 of the boys’ 326 scholarships went to football players.

Highlighting the crop of football players moving onto the next level is Cottonwood’s Cooper Bateman, who signed with BCS National Champion Alabama.

“There might be people who think I can’t play because I’m from Utah, but what I’d like to do is come out and prove them wrong,” said Bateman at the time of his commitment.

In all, roughly 5 percent of the estimated 2,371 seniors who played football last fall earned some form of scholarship, and 43 of the 120 are heading to Division 1 programs.

Of the three in-state Division 1 programs, Utah State led the way with 14 signees — up from five a year ago. BYU signed 12 in-state seniors, up from only four last year, while Utah inked six local players, down two from last year’s signing class.

Southern Utah, which is making the jump to the Big Sky Conference this fall, signed the most in-state kids with 21, followed by Dixie State with 17.

Overall participation numbers for the 2012-2013 school year were provided by the Utah High School Activities Association. Senior estimates were calculated at 27 percent of the overall participation numbers.

Of the 10 sanctioned UHSAA boys’ sports, baseball had the highest percentage of seniors receive scholarships with 61 (6.9 percent).

Among the elite baseball players who received scholarships were American Fork’s Riley Ottesen (Utah), Riverton’s Tanner Draper (Oregon State), Arik Mack (BYU) and Brennon Lund (BYU).

“Utah baseball is just getting better and better ‘cause there’s opportunities for them to go out against better competition to prove themselves,” said American Fork coach Jared Ingersoll. “I think more and more colleges are looking into Utah to recruit.”

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