Payton Freeman, Lone Peak (Sr.)
Lone Peak has opened region play with six straight victories, and the contributions from senior Payton Freeman are a big reason why.
A first-team all-stater last year, Freeman has picked up right where he left off.
The outfield is batting .462 with six doubles, two home runs and 17 RBI. On the mound, he’s 3-0 this season with 24 strikeouts in 23 innings and a 0.60 ERA.
"Payton has been a workhorse for our program the last couple years. He continues to have great at-bats and gives our team a chance to win every time he is on the mound. He is a phenomenal athlete who produces on the field, and a guy who we have all the confidence in the world in,” said Lone Peak coach Matthew Bezzant.
Jilina Mercier, Herriman (Jr.)
Jilina Mercier is making a splash in her first season playing high school softball, leading Herriman to a current six-game winning streak.
She’s batting .448 this season, including a clutch home run in a recent win over Lehi. On the mound she’s earned five victories with a 2.14 ERA and 32 strikeouts.
“She is part of a great pitching staff when she isn't pitching she is hitting DH. She is a strong pitcher, hitter and a good teammate. A big contributor to the Mustangs,” said Herriman coach Heidi McKissick.
Ruben Castillo, Juan Diego (Sr.)
The Soaring Eagle are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak heading down the home stretch of the season, and the play of Ruben Castillo is a big reason why.
The senior leads Juan Diego with 13 goals, including four he scored last week. He recorded a hat trick in a 7-2 win over Morgan last Tuesday, and a day later scored another goal in a 4-0 win over Ben Lomond.
Castillo also recorded an assist in each game, upping his season total to eight.
“Ruben is an outstanding finisher and distributor as evidenced by his 13 goals and 8 assists on the season. Ruben is also a tenacious on-ball defender which creates many of our scoring opportunities. Ruben is also a great leader and is a captain on this year's team,” said Juan Diego coach Scott Platz.
Talin Mortensen, Salem Hills (Sr.)
Back-to-back ACL tears suffered in football his sophomore and junior season haven’t deterred Talin Mortensen’s athletic prowess at all.
Last week recorded a shot put throw of 61’04.50 at last week’s Utah County Invitational, the best mark in Utah this season by nearly five feet.
“Talin has committed himself 100 percent to being the best possible track and field athlete he can be. He gets up at 5 a.m. every morning to lift before school. He has done thousands of hours of lifts, drills, throws and video review in an empty gym, in the weight room, on the sidewalks, in the rings, and at home,” said Salem Hills coach Bart Thompson. “He has done this year-round, regardless of weather or season.”
Leif Arrhenius owns the state record throw of 66’06.50 set back in 2004, and he’s been a mentor to Mortensen, as has Darin Beierle.
“He has created a culture on our team, and especially among our throwers, of hard-work, commitment, fun and success. He works hard, and expects his teammates to work hard as well. He loves what he does, and strives to make sure his teammates are having fun as well,” said Thompson.
Meghan Hunter, Provo (So.)
Just a sophomore, sprinter Meghan Hunter has been one of the biggest stories of the track season thus far.
She owns top four times in Utah this season in the 100, 200 and 400 meters, and her time in the 400 (54.35) at the UVU Invitational two weeks ago is over a second faster than anyone else has run.
That time was less than a second off the state-record time of 53.39 set back in 2008.
“The greatest thing about Meghan is her willingness to get better. She works harder than most athletes I know to improve,” said Provo coach Miles Killian.
Gracie Richens, Dixie (Sr.)
Gracie Richens, last year’s 3A individual state champ, is looking like the favorite to win again this season.
The BYU commit has won four straight Region 9 meets with this year’s state meet exactly one month away.
Conner McArthur, Desert Hills (Sr.)
McArthur returned from an offseason back injury and has been a major contributor for Desert Hills at No. 2 doubles this season.
“We are fortunate to have Conner back for his senior season. He had a serious back injury over Christmas break and we were unsure if he would be able to even play,” said Desert Hills coach Dow Christenson.