The race for Male Athlete of the Year honors was hotly contested in 2018-19, with each of Tooele Valley’s three high schools putting up contenders for the top spot.
That made it difficult to select just one finalist from each school, knowing that there were plenty of deserving candidates. However, there were a couple notable standouts that finished just behind eventual winner Jet Richins of Stansbury for the top prize.
Tooele sophomore Justin Rogers was nothing short of spectacular on the basketball court for the Buffaloes. Tooele came into the season with a young, inexperienced squad, and facing a bit of turmoil after a coaching change just before the season began. But Rogers provided the kind of leadership and play one would expect from someone much older. Tooele’s starting center averaged 15.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks per game, and shot 53 percent from inside the 3-point arc. He also shot a rock-solid 76 percent from the free-throw line — important for a player who ranked second on the team in foul shots attempted. He had a season-high 28 points in a December game against Dixie and broke the 20-point barrier seven times. His best all-around game game in a 21-point, 11-rebound, eight-assist effort in a crucial road win over Bonneville in January, and he had three other double-doubles.
Rogers also had a successful track and field season, winning the Region 11 championship in the 110-meter hurdles and teaming with Joseph Wilkins, Gavin Ware and Aaron Pectol for a region title in the 4×400-meter relay. He set a new personal-best time of 15.39 seconds in the 110 hurdles during the season.
Grantsville’s Parker Thomas was another dominant underclassman who made his impact felt in 2018-19. On the football field, the Cowboys’ starting running back was virtually unstoppable. He rushed for 2,028 yards and 28 touchdowns in 10 games, averaging 7.8 yards per carry, and didn’t fumble once in 261 touches. He had six games in which he ran for more than 200 yards, including a 313-yard, four-touchdown effort in a win over Summit Academy and 259 yards and six touchdowns on 16 carries against Emery. He will enter his senior season with more than 3,000 career yards and 36 TDs.
As good as he is on the gridiron, Thomas might be even better on the baseball field. Fresh off a sophomore year in which he was the winning pitcher in the Class 3A state championship game, he went 5-2 in 2019 with a 2.34 earned-run average, 66 strikeouts and 14 walks in 50 2/3 innings pitched. He committed just two errors in the field and had a fielding percentage of .953. And if that wasn’t enough, he hit .488 with 15 doubles, three triples, two home runs and 30 RBIs. He had an on-base percentage of .613 and a slugging percentage of .825.