Hillcrest students, alumni say goodbye to gym before demolition
Apr 23, 2020 03:12PM
By Julie Slama
Hillcrest High School’s main gym was considered a gem when it was first constructed, but now it’s expected to be torn down in April. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
It was the early 1980s. Hillcrest Huskies girls basketball team was a powerhouse, vying for the state title. They already had snagged it in 1979 and would go on to earn the honors in 1982 and 1983.
That year, rowdy students filed into the gym, packing the wooden bleachers, for the pep assembly to cheer on their team before the state tournament.
“It was loud, the students were excited and yelling,” said former coach Jeannie Wilson. “The girls were lined up, ready to run in when they were introduced. They were pumped, just excited.”
Former Assistant Principal Tom Hicks had asked students to be quiet to begin the rally. The students kept cheering. He asked a second and third time, but still the crowd roared.
“The kids were fired up and wouldn’t shut up. They were beginning to get angry and Tom was as well. Then, he said, ‘We’re canceling the assembly.’ I jumped up and said, ‘Tom, you can’t do that. These players have worked so hard,’” Wilson said, adding that she was “feisty and spoke her mind.”
Hicks walked out, but the assembly went on.
“It wasn’t a good moment for me to disrespect his decision, but I was thinking about the team and the support they were getting from the student body,” she recalled about the moment.
That story was one of many shared as Hillcrest students and alumni traded tales at the recent open house for the current athletic facilities.
Travis Grant, class of 1990, remembers the pep rallies in the gym as well as watching his older brother, Sean, play basketball until he graduated in 1986. Their younger sister, Michelle Grant Howell, class of 1992, said she played under the bleachers during the games.
She also learned to whistle by placing her fingers in her mouth and one last time, let out a deafening cry that echoed in the gym, where state championship banners hung from the rafters and a U.S. flag had haphazardly been hung in recent years as the automatic one from the class of 2011 stopped functioning.
It also brought the 2018-19 boys’ basketball team manager, special education student Tanner Cluff, who graduated last year, a standing ovation, after getting the chance to suit up and play in the final seconds – scoring a layup – in the last boys’ home game of the season.
In early April, the main and auxiliary gyms – the first portion of Hillcrest High School — are expected to be torn down to make room for a new classroom wing as a new school building is being constructed on site.
The new athletic facilities, including a new covered turf facility (or field house) located north of the football field, a main gymnasium, an auxiliary gym, training room, dance room, weight room, wrestling room, multipurpose athletic room and locker rooms, is nearing completion for students to use in physical education, dance, cheer, drill and athletics.
Students are expected to hold their PE classes in the field house until the new gym opens on April 13.
But at one time, Hillcrest’s current gym was the gem of the Salt Lake Valley, according to David Elibarri, class of 1991.
“This was a great place, the best facility,” said Elibarri, who also attended Midvale Elementary and Midvale Middle. “I’m a little sad that this is the last one of my schools standing and it’s coming down.”
Elibarri, who was a member of the tennis team that won the state title, said he remembered watching many assemblies and games in the gym.
“We played the students versus faculty basketball game,” he said, adding that the students, of course, won. “It’s a place we met our friends, had dances, cheered on our teams. The highlight was always beating Brighton.”
Andrew Buhler, class of 1992, agrees.
“We got to beat Brighton,” he said about the 1991 Battle of the Ax wrestling match against Brighton.
In his senior year, he finished second at the state championships.
His brother, Jake, class of 1990, said it was the first time they had beat the Bengals in about a dozen years.
“We had a lot of great coaches and were one of the best teams,” he said. “We always drew a crowd.”
Sharon Kirk, class of 1981, agreed that she had good coaches on the volleyball team.
Like most of the girls basketball games in the day, the girls played and practiced in the auxiliary gym.
“I have lots of good memories, hanging out there together,” she said.
Playing in the auxiliary gym was OK at the time, Wilson said.
“It was totally different then,” she said. “It was our territory and it was intimidating. It was our home. We knew every line, every crack and cranny. We made baskets and protected ours. Our girls were in stupid shape; they were phenomenal athletes and great gals. They had a blast; they were smart and always set a goal and kept at it to finish. This was our home.”