Between the passing of a BYU broadcasting legend and the UHSAA Utah swimming and diving championships, there was plenty of action on the docket this weekend.
BYU broadcasting pioneer Jay Monson passed away over the weekend. Monson did radio and TV broadcasts of BYU sports for decades. Later, he served in the school’s electronic media relations department. Today we are taking a look back at him and his life.
Additionally, the eyes of the Utah high school sports scene turned to the pool over the weekend. The 3A, 4A and 5A high school swimming championships went down at BYU. Both Brighton and Wasatch swept 5A and 3A respectively, and it was a wire finish in 4A between Mountain Crest and Springville.
In the midst of the swimming action, Amy Donaldson took a closer look at a student who stayed in the pool to pursue her dreams despite dealing with a debilitating heart defect.
Throw in the only men's basketball team from the state of Utah that got a win last week, and you have a dash of the finest sports content over the weekend.
Take a closer look at the weekend's sports news, starting with the passing of Jay Monson.
I was saddened to see Jay Monsen, the BYU broadcasting pioneer, passed away on Sunday at 79.
For those too young to know this name, Jay did radio and TV broadcasts of BYU sports for decades. Later he served in the school’s electronic media relations department.
Back in the years when I was a new college football beat writer, I knew him fairly well. I went on numerous road trips and attended a lot of football and basketball luncheons with him. He was a gentleman, the kind of friendly, professional, non-judgmental person that represented the university well.
He bought his family homestead in Mt. Pleasant and now dutifully tends his grandchildren, but back in the day, Jay Monsen broke a lot of ground as a sportscaster in Utah and was a real pioneer in the realm of TV and radio.
The West Coast Conference announced Friday that BYUtv will air eight games in the league's men's and women's tournament in Las Vegas next week. Monsen, now 78, is amazed and impressed at the exposure BYU sports are getting on ESPN and especially BYUtv. More than 40 years ago, he helped assemble a few bricks that became the foundation of the high-tech machinery seen today.
Mikel Minor, who just left ESPN in Bristol, Conn., to return to BYUtv this year as senior coordinating producer, was a producer with Monsen when KBYU-TV began broadcasting sports. The BYU alumnus also kicked off the Blue and White Network.
Up next: Brighton Bengals sweep 5A swimming championships.
PROVO — Brighton is the most accomplished prep swimming program in the state. The Bengals emphasized that point with team titles in both the boys and girls competitions Friday at BYU.
The Brighton girls edged out Bingham, 311.5-288.5, while the boys completely blew away the competition — beating second-place Lehi 382-225.
“I’m so happy for my team and for all the work we’ve put in,” said Brighton senior star Long Gutierrez. “This is the fourth year in a row for us and it’s an amazing experience every time. It’s been such a great experience to be part of the Brighton program.”
Up next: Mountain Crest boys swimming team breaks a record to take the 4A championship.
PROVO — The second day of the 4A state swim meet was chock full of photo finishes and broken records.
In fact, it wasn’t until the Mountain Crest boys team broke a record in the meet finale at BYU on Saturday evening that the Mustangs solidified first place in the team competition.
“Working out the meet, it came down to whoever won that last relay won the state championship,” said Skyline coach Joe Pereira.
Up next: Wasatch sweeps out 3A swimming
PROVO — When Amelia Draney touched the wall to finish the 500-yard freestyle during the second day of the 3A state swim meet at BYU on Saturday morning, the near-capacity crowd erupted.
With a time of 4:59.38, the Desert Hills junior lapped every other swimmer in the pool en route to breaking her own 3A record by over three seconds, which she set almost exactly a year ago.
“I just was looking at the clock and saw I was under five minutes and I thought, ‘just keep going. Hold on as long as you can,’” said Draney, who was named the 3A female swimmer of the year by the Utah Swim Coaches Association.
Up next: High School swimmer Hailie Gittins pursues her dreams despite debilitating heart defect
HYRUM — Hailie Gittins knew something was wrong.
The 17-year-old relished the opportunity to challenge her limits each time she entered the water. And yet, the winter of her sophomore year, she hit a wall that she simply didn't understand.
"During practice, I would notice I got tired faster than the other kids," said the 17-year-old Mtn. Crest swimmer. "It frustrated me."
Her coach at the time, Yolanda Bates, noticed her struggling and suggested she see a doctor. It did not occur to Gittins to tell her long-time coach that she'd had open heart surgery as an infant and likely would need another surgery.
Instead, the teen continued to work hard — tried to push harder.
Up next: Individuals from Davis High School track team set sights on national title.
KAYSVILLE — Taylor Cox isn't sure she'll realize her dream of being a state champion despite thousands of hours of training.
"That's the hardest part," said the Davis High junior of what it's like being a member of a deep, talented team. "I've always wanted to win a state championship, and it's hard knowing I probably won't because my teammates will beat me. But I stay motivated by thinking next year is my year."
But the Davis High junior is hoping a national championship might relieve some of the sting she'll likely feel when her teammates beat her, once again, in the 800-meter race this track season.
Instead of harboring resentment that Shea Martinez, who won the state championship in the 800, and Ellie Child, who finished second in that race, are always just a few seconds ahead of her, she's hoping their talent will help her evolve into an elite runner herself.
Up next: BYU basketball assistant coach Mark Pope is grateful for the run that is now ingrained in his soul.
PROVO — Mark Pope has a truckload of basketball tales to share. In the basketball life he’s lived, he’s been at the top and he’s won. The BYU basketball assistant coach has dribbled and bumped shoulders with the giants of the game. And he’s grateful for the run that is now ingrained in his soul.
Pope is a quiet, big man with a beautiful wife Lee Anne, daughter of the late Utah and BYU basketball coach Lynn Archibald. Pope has four daughters he hugs and tells them he loves before and after every basketball game in the Marriott Center.
His basketball experience stretches from the Pac 10’s University of Washington near his hometown, to a transfer to the University of Kentucky with Rick Pitino, and an NBA career in which he played for Larry Bird and George Karl. If you could get Pope to sing, he could spin some stories, some of them actually publishable.
But one day after a BYU practice, I asked Pope a very narrow question in scope, one he might be able to cover in a few minutes of a busy schedule.
The question? What is the most fun he’s ever had in his basketball career.
Up next: Jazz guard Earl Watson is a veteran - and wants to play.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Earl Watson wanted to play.
As a 33-year-old who's been in the NBA for 12 seasons, the veteran point guard knows his playing days are numbered.
That's why he's willing to put on his Utah Jazz uniform and take to the court no matter what percentage number is placed on the health of his beat-up right leg.
Seventy-five percent? 85 percent? 99.99 percent?
It doesn't matter to him.
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