Hartman gets hat trick, leads Huskies to silver in area unified soccer tournamentJun 28, 2021 10:54AM ● By Julie Slama
Hillcrest High’s unified soccer team brought home silver medals from the Salt Lake regional tournament. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Hillcrest High senior Jaden Hartman spent hours every day on his own, practicing his footwork, his speed, and lifting weights in preparation for his unified soccer season.
“I looked at YouTube videos and learned to work on my left leg, then my right and doing sprints,” said the student-athlete who has been on the unified team for four years and on the Real Salt Lake unified team for two years. “I like kicking the ball and playing with my friends, but I never played on a team before Hillcrest.”
So, when Hartman put on the Husky jersey for the tournament, he realized this would be the last time he’d represent his school.
“I just want to win it,” he said during the coed Salt Lake regional tournament after he had scored seven goals, including a hat trick early on in one game. “I want to be champions and put a trophy in our school’s trophy case in the new gym.”
Hartman said he also enjoyed playing with friends and making new ones on the team.
“I like playing soccer, hanging out with my teammates, eating food, or helping the SBOs (student body officers),” he said. “It’s been good.”
While the Huskies won their early rounds, they fell to Tooele in the championship game. Hartman and his teammates received silver medals.
Hillcrest High has a solid unified program, said Courtnie Worthen, Unified Champion Schools manager who oversees the unified sports program.
“Hillcrest engages the school in the program by having members on the team who represent different parts of the school,” she said about some of their partners who are SBOs, Latinos-in-Action or peer tutors. “They have fans as their (boys) soccer team and SBOs came to cheer for them.”
Hillcrest coach Shannon Hurst held weekly practices for the team and invited the Husky boys’ soccer team to help. Not only did they work on the basic soccer skills, but also on trapping the ball and shooting, which allowed their keeper, senior Jonah Askvig, to practice stopping the ball from his wheelchair.
“The goal is to provide an opportunity for our kids who don’t get to play elsewhere and have a program similar to other programs,” she said. “They deserve the recognition, hype, praise, practice and a chance to have a coach just as our other athletes. Everyone deserves to know they are welcome, safe, loved and appreciated here.”
For Hurst, it’s been fun.
“We had every athlete score and when Jaden got his hat trick, he just lit up. He just talks soccer all the time. He gets so excited; this is his thing. He helps his teammates learn and has become a leader at practices,” she said about her captain, who proudly wore the captain sleeve.
Hurst hoped not only her athletes, but her partners, bonded.
“I hope the partners learn patience and it opens their eyes to being inclusive. I’ve seen them show kindness, understanding and respect,” she said.
Hartman’s teammate, sophomore Ashtyn McVey, said she became better acquainted with her peers by playing on the team.
“I love the community environment,” said the peer tutor who played eight years of soccer leading up to middle school. “I know the players from class, but when I’m on the field playing with them, I’m getting closer to them. We work as a team and are encouraging each other always. I’ve learned more patience and know how we can set up crosses, or make sure we’re not down with mis-passes. Jaden works hard, and he encourages others and sets them up for good passes. Everyone cares about each other and we all work together. We’re becoming better friends because of playing soccer together.”
That is something that Worthen appreciates.
“We hope this helps to create lasting friendships, where they see each other in the hallways and say hi, eat together at lunch and have fun,” she said. “This helps to build camaraderie. I’d love to host unified dances or see clubs that help build leadership with the students and their peers.”
While those on the field had to follow the safety and health precautions as other high school teams, the tournament was set up regionally to reduce travel and have less teams playing at a site to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, Worthen said.
In the week following the tournament, Hartman, Askvig and their teammate, Poa Tuitama, were honored with their own senior night during the Hillcrest boys soccer home game, recognizing their contributions to the team and school before the Husky community.
Next year, unified soccer in Utah will become a fall sport, allowing year-round unified sports, with basketball in the winter and track in the spring.