Utah left its mark on the country in the 2013 high school sports season.
Between winning national titles, elite races or making headlines on SportsCenter, high school teams in Utah made a big impression throughout a record-setting year.
Here’s a look at the top 10 high school sports stories this season.
A phrase was coined in national high school basketball circles last season for a team getting run ragged up and down the court. It was called “Getting LonePeaked.”
Not surprisingly, nobody did it better than Lone Peak.
Buoyed by a trio of future BYU Cougars and a staggering 26.4-point margin of victory, Lone Peak’s boys basketball team finished with a 26-1 record en route to the 5A state championship and the mythical national championship, according to MaxPreps.
The Knights finished No. 1 in the final MaxPreps Xcellent top 25 rankings and the MaxPreps computerized Freeman rankings. They finished fourth in the final USA Today Super 25 rankings.
Along the way to the national title, Lone Peak beat teams from Illinois, Nevada, Colorado, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, North Carolina and California. It’s lone loss came to Montverde Academy, Fla., in the championship game of the City of Palms Classic in Florida.
“I’ve grown up in the state, my dad was a longtime coach at Provo and Timpview. I’ve grown up watching high school basketball in the state. I’ve always felt it was undervalued from a national landscape, so to speak,” said coach Quincy Lewis.
Lone Peak went 18-0 against Utah teams, which included a 72-39 win over Alta in the state championship.
The conversation about the greatest high school distance runner in state history now begins and ends with Park City’s Ben Saarel.
Before graduating last May and then helping lead the University of Colorado to an NCAA cross-country championship last month, Saarel finished his high school career as the track and field state record holder in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
He ran 8:49.08 in the 3,200 meters at the BYU Invitational on May 3, and two weeks later broke two more records at the state meet. He opened the meet with a state-record time of 4:07.95 in the 1,600 meters and the following day set a new benchmark time in the 800 meters at 1:51.13.
He wasn’t done yet, though.
Racing against the nation’s elite a week later at the Adidas High School Dream Mile in New York City, Saarel came from behind to finish first with a time of 4:02.72 in windy conditions — making him the fastest miler in Utah history.
“I’m just so happy,” said Saarel after the Dream Mile victory. “Win lose or draw, I just wanted to finish with nothing left and just go out with as much pain as I could. I crossed that finish line and it was just a big release of emotion.”
Earlier in the track season he also won races at the Mount Sac Relays and the Arcadia Invitational.
When Union coach Matt Labrum decided to suspend his football program in September for off-field problems ranging from cyber-bullying to skipping classes, he said he believed it was his duty to take a stand.
What followed over the next weeks made national news, which included Labrum eventually being interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN, among several other media outlets.
“It’s wonderful to see so many people being so supportive of us,” Labrum said. “We’re isolated out here. This is all new. We didn’t want the media exposure to make us lose sight of why we were doing this.”
After a 40-16 loss to Judge on Sept. 20, Labrum told his players to turn in their jerseys and equipment. He was suspending the program until the players earned the privilege to play.
Instead of practicing for their homecoming game with Emery — which Union eventually lost 41-21 — the football players were told to perform community service, attend study hall and attend a class on character development. In addition, they were required to do service for their family and write a report.
Of the 41 varsity players who were initially suspended, all but nine earned the right to play in time for the homecoming game.
Amid everything going on, senior Gavin Nielsen helped sum up the sentiment of the team.
“I still have the love for it and everything. But it helped me realize, it’s not all about football,” said Nielsen.
Bingham began the season ranked No. 1 in the Deseret News' top 25 rankings, and that’s where it remained all year.
Along the way to winning the 5A state championship, the Miners made believers out of a lot of naysayers who said the 2013 team paled in comparison to past Bingham teams.
Instead, it became the seventh team in state history to finish with a 14-0 record, joining the perfect Bingham team of 2006.
“It’s a remarkable thing. I told these guys if we go get this done I’m going to remember them for being a team that dared to be great and put us back into that elite status instead of just being a good team,” said Bingham coach Dave Peck.
The title was Bingham’s eighth in school history and fourth in the past eight seasons.
Bingham beat Brighton 38-13 in the 5A championship by outscoring the Bengals in the second half 17-0. Starting quarterback Kyle Gearig missed the entire second half with concussion symptoms, but it didn’t matter as Scott Nichols was a beast on the ground, rushing for 165 yards and a touchdown.
Bingham finished the year ranked No. 20 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings.
A legend was born at the Dee Events Center last March, and even SportsCenter took notice.
Jalen Moore’s running half-courter in the 4A semifinals lifted underdog Sky View to a stunning 63-60 overtime victory over Bountiful, a play that checked in at No. 2 that night on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays countdown.
“I can’t even describe what this feels like right now. To hit a shot like that — it’s just amazing and I’m just so happy for my teammates who worked so hard and for all our fans. Our fans are amazing and they earned it — we all earned this.”
The Braves looked poised to pull away in overtime, leading 58-54 with 22 seconds remaining, but incredibly Sky View rallied to win on Moore’s memorable heave from half court.
Moore finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists to spearhead the semifinal victory, which Sky View backed up a night later by beating Mountain Crest for the school’s first title since 1994.
Mountain Crest beat Sky View twice during region, but spurred on by Moore and outstanding defense, the Bobcats hit their stride when it mattered most.
Gary Andersen’s move to the Big 10 had a major impact on the recruiting landscape in Utah in 2013.
Jordan’s Austin Kafentzis, the Deseret News 2012 Mr. Football recipient, and East’s Ula Tolutau, the 2013 Mr. Football winner, both committed to Wisconsin this summer within one month of each other.
Tolutau is a senior who will join the Wisconsin program next fall, while Kafentzis is still just a junior who will join the following year.
Kafentzis made his commitment while on a visit to Madison, Wis., in June.
"I had no idea I was going to commit today," said Kafentzis. "I just came out here for a camp. I planned on doing it after the season. But I just loved it that much. I just had this gut feeling that whether it was now or in two months or in a year, I feel like this is the place I want to play. It's just one of those things where you go with what you feel."
A three-year starter for Jordan, Kafentzis has passed for 9,024 yards and 74 TDs while rushing for 4,895 yards and 75 TDs.
Tolutau committed in May, but East coach Brandon Matich said his running back was fond of the Wisconsin program before Andersen moved there from Utah State.
"He loves the way they play football there," Matich said. "Most everyone is running spread offenses these days, but Ula liked that Wisconsin played top caliber football with a power-running attack. It fits his game perfectly and he couldn't be more excited."
The kings of 1A football rewrote the state record books this season, and they’re not done yet either.
Duchesne captured its fourth straight 1A state championship this season and in the process extended its state-record winning streak to 47, shattering the previous record of 36 set by Timpview from 2005 to 2009.
“They’re all winners. They’re all champions. Every year we think this is going to be the year we lose a game. We lose a good group of kids, but there’s always five, six, seven guys who step up who we don’t expect to,” said coach Jerry Cowan.
With another perfect season in 2014, Duchesne could stretch its streak to 60. It certainly won’t be easy, as the Eagles found out this year.
Unlike previous seasons in which they rolled by double digits every Friday night, the Eagles had to grind out numerous victories on their way to a fourth-straight title. Among them were a pair of one-point victories over rival Rich.
In the regular season, Duchesne beat Rich 20-19, and then in the 1A state championship on a cold and snowy day at Weber State, Duchesne eked out another 14-13 victory as Rich failed to convert a two-point conversion in the final minute.
The UHSAA handed out seven fall sports state championships in 4A throughout October and November, and there was a consistent theme at the top of the podium — Timpview.
The trophy haul began with boys golf and was soon followed by girls tennis, volleyball and football. Of the four, only volleyball went into the state tournament as the clear-cut favorite.
No. 1 East was the slight favorite heading into the football playoffs, but the confident T-Birds outplayed East in the second half of the 4A title game to rally for the 33-28 victory and their second straight title.
Timpview’s golf team had a similar comeback. Trailing by nine strokes after the first day of competition at Ogden Country Club, the T-Birds fired a team score of 301 on the second day to rally past Bonneville and Orem.
"It helped that we were coming from behind and we didn't have as much pressure on us to try and keep the lead, instead of being ahead and trying to hold on," said Timpview sophomore Josh Lillywhite.
The girls tennis team had an equally tight finish, edging Olympus 12-11 to claim its first state championship since 2001. Sophomore Kate Cusick was the only individual winner, but Timpview had just enough teams advance to the semifinals to earn enough points to claim first.
“I didn’t think we could win with 12 points, I thought it would take at the minimum 14,” said coach Michelle Landers. “I thought it was going to take two in the finals.”
Timpview’s march to the volleyball title was never really in question. After a 27-2 regular season, Timpview won all four state tournament games in straight sets to avenge the previous year’s runner-up finish.
When it came to the diamond, nobody dominated like Salem Hills in 2013.
In back-to-back days last May, Salem Hills’ softball team and baseball team captured 4A state championships, the first for both programs.
Salem’s softball team only lost three games all season and posted a perfect 5-0 record in the state tournament led by 4A MVP Kirtlyn Bohling. The junior dominated on the mound all season but was also fantastic at the plate — particularly in the state tourney.
Her walk-off grand slam against No. 1 Box Elder in the third round was the galvanizing moment for Salem Hills’ playoff run.
A day after Salem Hills’ softball team beat Box Elder for the second time to lift the 4A title, its baseball team followed suit with an overwhelming 14-10 victory over rival Maple Mountain — its second of the playoffs.
Paced by 4A MVP Colton Hill, Salem jumped out to a 10-1 lead in the title game and then held off a late rally to capture its first title.
Salem Hills beat Maple Mountain in three of four meetings last season on its way to an impressive 27-3 record.
“We know we’ve got the skill level, but if you come together as a family and you’re unified then special things are going to happen,” said coach Scott Haney.
With 18 four-time state champs since the turn of the century, it’s certainly not uncommon to see an elite wrestler run the table throughout his high school career.
Three in one season, however, was definitely something to celebrate in 2013.
Maple Mountain’s Britain Carter, Hurricane’s Zach Prince and Altamont’s Kyle Foy all accomplished that feat last February as they finished their careers as four-time state champions.
Carter, who committed to Columbia University, capped his career with Maple Mountain with a major decision victory in 4A’s 120-pound championship match.
“After the match, I had a flood of memories that came over me about all the different matches and all the other state championships. And then coach (Justin) Judkins just said, ‘It’s done,’ ” said Carter.
Two days later at UVU, Prince and Foy joined Carter as four-time champs.
Heading into his 3A 152-pound championship match, Prince was a slight underdog, having lost to Wasatch’s Spencer Heywood at the region meet a week earlier, but he dug deep to claim the state championship when it mattered most in a close 7-4 decision.
There was no drama with Foy’s fourth individual title as he pinned his opponent in 1A’s 170-pound title bout in just 36 seconds.