Just like that, the 2018-19 school year has come to a close, and what a year it was for Tooele County’s high school athletes.
This was a year that won’t soon be forgotten around these parts. Grantsville and Tooele won state titles in softball. Porter Whitworth, Hadlee Begay, Zane Thomas, Joseph Mecham, Carson Belnap and Josh Oblad won individual state championships. Whitworth joined Daltyn Peasnall, Darin Sandberg and Izaiah Sanders for a relay state title, while Belnap won a relay title with Brenden VanCooney, Jet Richins and Xander Littlefield. Grantsville finished second in girls basketball. The list goes on and on.
It was also a year of change. There will be new football coaches at Tooele and Stansbury. Grantsville will have new coaches in girls tennis and boys basketball. Tooele will have its fourth swim coach in four years, and will also have a new wrestling coach. Stansbury’s girls soccer, boys golf, girls basketball and boys tennis programs will have new coaches as well. Many of these new coaches will be familiar faces, while others are new to the area.
But what will stick with me most of all won’t be the wins and losses. I’ve been doing this long enough that I’ve been to countless hundreds, if not thousands, of games. I’ve seen kids that I’ve covered go on to play in college and even the pros, or become coaches with kids of their own.
What brings me the biggest thrill is getting to know the youth of Tooele County. We are truly lucky to have these young men and women represent us, whether they’re wearing Tooele purple, Grantsville red, Stansbury blue, Wendover green or Dugway maroon.
This senior class in particular holds a special place for me. They are the first class that I’ve gotten to cover from the time they entered high school to the time they graduated. I’ve gotten to see them go from toiling in mostly empty gyms during junior varsity and freshman games, to their first varsity playing time, to starring roles. I’ve seen them do it in the same kind of small-town atmosphere I grew up in, where everything shuts down for a high-school football game. I’ve seen them experience the joy of that late-night firetruck ride, state championship trophy held high and horns honking.
And, yes, I’ve seen them experience the disappointment of coming up just short of their ultimate goal.
But most of all, I’ve seen them enjoy the best thing about high school sports — the sense of camaraderie. In those friendships, they’ve built something that will last a lifetime — far longer than any state championship victory or disappointing rivalry-game loss ever will. They’ve learned life lessons that extend far past any playing field.
I’m just thankful I’ve been there to watch it unfold.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. His connection to high school sports extends back 20 years to when he played third singles for his JV tennis team. Email him at email@example.com.