At first glance, a pandemic wiping out three months of sports coverage would seem devastating to the idea of compiling the top stories for the year.
After all, by my count, there were approximately 90 games that I would have covered between mid-March and the end of May that were cancelled. There was no state softball tournament, where Grantsville and Tooele were all but guaranteed of reaching the final day. There was no state track meet, no baseball games, no tennis matches and no afternoon soccer games.
In addition, an action-packed summer schedule at Utah Motorsports Campus was suddenly all but completely wiped out. It looked like we might not have a state volleyball tournament in the fall, and the start of winter sports got delayed by two weeks.
But, somehow, there were still stories to be told, even in a year where games were taken away from us. For example:
• Grantsville’s girls and boys basketball teams went deep at the Class 3A state tournament. It seems like a lifetime ago that I was sitting in the bleachers at Salt Lake Community College’s Lifetime Activities Center, just a few weeks before COVID-19 brought the whole world to a screeching halt. But, what a run the Cowboys had. The girls team finished fourth, reaching the final day of the tournament for the third year in a row. The boys, who entered the tournament as a No. 8 seed after a midseason coaching change, rallied to finish fifth.
• Speaking of Grantsville’s girls basketball team, what more can be said about the year Maison White had? She mounted an all-out assault on the Cowboys’ record books with an unbelievable junior season. That earned her an honorary Jackie White-Kimber Award, named for her late aunt and typically given to the top player from Tooele High (which, in 2020, went to Alivia Cluff, who is now playing at Desert Hills High in St. George). White will wrap up her high school career this winter before heading to the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs next fall.
• A number of college signees from Tooele County put pen to paper this year. Other notables included Grantsville offensive lineman Branson Yager (Nebraska), Tooele running back Nukuluve Helu (Brigham Young), Tooele track star Makenna McCloy (Utah), Grantsville soccer standout Whitney Wangsgard (Southern Utah), Grantsville track star Erin Hurst (Dixie State), Tooele softball pitcher Attlyn Johnston (Dixie State), state champion cross-country stars and BYU signees Porter Whitworth of Grantsville and Carson Belnap of Stansbury, and Stansbury baseball players Cayden Clark (Dixie State), Braydon Allie (Dixie State) and Colton Sundloff (Cal State Fullerton). And that’s just the Division I signees.
• Stansbury’s Braydon Griffith made a run at the top spot in the Class 4A state boys golf tournament, finishing three shots back after shooting 6-under par over two days at Meadow Brook Golf Course. He has finished in the top-6 each of the past two years, and appears primed to contend for the state title once again in 2021 when the Stallions make the jump to Class 5A.
• Yes, there was racing at UMC this summer, after all, as the ARCA Menards Series put together a road-racing doubleheader in late June. It was the first time stock cars had taken to the road course since the 2016 K&N Pro Series West event, and 500 spectators were in attendance, marking the first time in more than three months that spectators had been allowed at a professional sporting event in Utah.
So, 2020 wasn’t a total bust, as it turns out. That said, I’m hoping for a more complete slate of sporting events in 2021, and I’m looking forward to having even more stories to tell.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He is thankful that he has games to write about again. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.