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Midvale Journal

New Hillcrest High region expected to support student-athletes, fans

Feb 03, 2023 09:46AM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High student-athletes, seen here in the 2022 state softball playoffs, will compete in 2023-25 against the local high school teams of Jordan, Murray and Cottonwood in region as well as Stansbury, Tooele and Park City. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Having schoolwide student involvement was a critical factor when Hillcrest High’s principal and athletic director were jockeying for a position in the new Utah High School Activities Association’s realignment of regions for 2023-25.

“We got together with Jordan, Murray and Cottonwood (high schools) prior to all the meetings happening and we discussed that we really wanted to get more student involvement at games,” Hillcrest High Athletic Director Scott Carrell said. “After our away football game at Jordan, where we had 500-plus students from Hillcrest there, we felt it would be a good idea to really kind of push to get all of us in the same region. It was nice that it worked out and we’re excited for that it’s going to help us over the next two years, getting more kids out to games to support our student-athletes.”

This upcoming region, Hillcrest drops to 4A to compete against not only Jordan, Murray and Cottonwood, but also Stansbury, Tooele, and Park City high schools. Initially Stansbury and Tooele were to compete with Utah County schools, but geographically, it made more sense for them to compete with this region and for Uintah High in Vernal to travel south, Carrell said.

With the region alignment two years ago, Carrell said Hillcrest’s “primary reason was trying to boost participation in athletics. In most of our sports it really did help us and we saw a lot more participation.”

He said that boys’ basketball and boys’ soccer had 80 and 90 student-athletes try out and 42 girls for softball, all up from the low numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

However, it made it difficult to maintain a fan base. The past two years, with Hillcrest High in 5A region 7, students and fans had to travel three hours east to Uintah, hours south to Payson and Cedar Valley high schools and west to Stansbury and Tooele high schools. Cottonwood has been the only nearby high school.

As a result, fan attendance at away games fell. So far this season, only a student yearbook photographer has traveled to a competitor’s gym for a girls’ basketball game, two hours away at Duchesne High for a non-conference game.

Travel also influenced Carrell’s and Principal Gregory Leavitt’s thinking.

“Mr. Leavitt and I sat down, and we said, ‘Our student sections are amazing at our home football games. We have a ton of students even if we don’t have the best team out there,’” he said, adding that currently, the school is interviewing for a new coach after the resignation of former head football coach Brock Bryant. “We want to make sure that we can try to find a way to help them be able to travel because they’re not going to be able to travel to Uintah, to Payson, to Cedar Valley and those schools all the time, but we want them to be as involved as possible. So having schools close enough where we could build school spirit was one of our big focuses for this alignment.”

Carrell also hopes to continue to support the nearby rivalry with Brighton High in all sports, not only with the Battle of the Axe in wrestling.

Wrestling, however, will be one of the sports that faces the biggest competition in 4A as strong programs at Payson and Uintah also were realigned to 4A, he said.

“The region will be really evenly matched around so we feel like it will be a good move for the whole school except the classification is going to be brutal on wrestling. Wrestling has some of the best teams in the state are now in 4A with Payson, Uintah, Mountain Crest and Bear River (high schools),” Carrell said.

When the current region was formed, Leavitt liked it as it would give students a chance to compete with students on their level.

“We chose to be more competitive than geographic,” Leavitt said. “Our records speak for themselves. Our kids are playing harder and trying harder, but we want to be competitive. It will help us to develop our student-athletes and most of the coaches feel good about the region.”

The result of that desire has been mixed. This past year, Hillcrest girls’ tennis squad won the region title and boys’ and girls’ soccer placed second and third, respectfully. However, football was winless, and baseball scored a single win.

“A lot has to do with coaches’ turnover and our athletes,” Carrell said. “When we were looking at region this year, it also came down to our enrollment numbers, with our small senior and junior classes. We wanted to keep up our participation numbers, both on the field and in the student sections. We’ve missed having those away games with our natural boundary schools and I think our community misses those too. We’re excited for this region.”