A day at the office for me can be an emotional roller coaster. In one day — sometimes one athletic contest — I can witness heroics, heartbreaks and history in the making.

Everyday is not a life-changing experience, but sometimes, in the most unexpected places I see some very inspiring efforts, and with the new calendar year upon us, I thought I'd share a few of my favorites.

This list only includes moments I actually witnessed. I understand there might be more significant events in high school sports than some of the ones I chose for my list, but I think they illustrate the magic of prep competition.

10. Justin Sorensen's performance in Bingham's preseason win over Alta.

The BYU-bound senior kicked three field goals in helping the Miners win this thrilling contest. Two of those field goals were 59 and 51 yards, and while he would go on to break the state record for the longest field goal (62 yards) later in the season, it was during this game that I realized I was watching a future superstar.

9. The 1A Girls State Basketball Tournament.

This tournament is one of my favorite events — regardless of the year. There is nothing like the camaraderie and the competition. In 2007, however, I saw several great games including one of the best championship battles I've ever witnessed — boys or girls — at any level.

Tiny Tabiona High — six varsity players strong — earned its first girls basketball title over Rich 51-50 on a thrilling last-second play.

8. The 2007 Utah High School Rodeo Finals.

It rained and rained, but that didn't dampen the competitive spirit of the hundreds of high school students participating in the Utah State Rodeo Finals. There were a number of memorable performances, but the aspect of the event that sticks with you isn't who won or lost but how tough, determined and compassionate these young athletes are. The Utah cowboys and cowgirls went on to defend their National Title in July as well.

7. Senior leadership at Hillcrest High.

When 22 of their teammates chose to leave the Hillcrest football program, five seniors stayed and played with much younger teammates, some of whom had never even dressed for a varsity game. Led by wide receiver Payden Dallimore, who thanked his young teammates for helping him finish his senior season, the Huskies ended the emotional year with a win over Taylorsville.

6. Athletes such as Jordan Oyler and Aliska Ence.

Oyler played basketball for Bear River with a prosthetic arm and illustrated not just determination but creativity, courage and a never-failing sense of humor every time she stepped on the court. Aliska Ence worked hard all summer and was likely going to be a starter for the Olympus Titans basketball team, when she tore her ACL just a few games into the 2007 season. Instead of leading her team statistically, the senior put aside her personal heartbreak and made her way to practice every day, as well as games, to teach and encourage her teammates.

5. Senior Night for the Rowland Hall-St. Mark's volleyball team.

Every school honors its seniors on the last home game of the season, but how many schools offer the same tribute to their opponents? The Winged Lions proved Region 14 is one of the most sportsmanlike — again — when the volleyball team offered gifts and verbal acknowledgement to the seniors of Juab High's volleyball team before they honored their own players.

4. Craig Drury winning seventh state title.

It wasn't just that the 30-year veteran broke a state record for state titles in boys basketball, but it was the way the Provo coach met that milestone. While his team celebrated their win over Payson, he quietly walked to the bench, smiled at his team and then wept about the gift those teenage boys had given him.

3. Panguitch wins its first volleyball title.

Loaded with talent and always competitive, there probably isn't a group of players or coaches who understand the agony of defeat better than those in the Bobcat volleyball program. This year they beat the team that has stolen their title dreams more than anyone else — Rich — for the school's first volleyball title. And who did coach Troy Norris thank when it was all over? Rich — for raising the bar so high.

2. Watching Utah School for the Deaf and Blind revive their sports programs.

Despite being skilled and, oftentimes just as competitive, as their hearing and sighted counterparts, students with sight and hearing impairments were often relegated to the sidelines. But after two years of working out issue after issue, the USDB officials are hoping athletic programs like volleyball and basketball are here to stay.

1. Alta winning the 5A state football title.

Coaches always say defense wins games, but not many of us buy into that philosophy. Fortunately for Alta coach Les Hamilton, this year the Hawks did just that. They dominated during the second half of the season by shutting down their opponents.

Alta defensive back Kaden Carli provided me with my favorite prep moment. As his teammates celebrated their semifinal win over region-rival Bingham, he knelt down next to two devastated Miners and offered them the kind of comfort that can only come from someone who understands their pain.


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