SALT LAKE CITY — Among the challenges of providing a quality, well-rounded education to students in Utah Catholic Schools during the coronavirus pandemic has been finding a way to allow sports to continue.
“Quite frankly, it’s a miracle it happened at all,” Juan Diego Catholic High School Athletic Director Chris Long said of the 2020 fall sports season. Much of the credit goes to the schools’ administrations, he said.
At Juan Diego, “Where we had a leg up on some of our public school partners is when we got shut down in March, [JDCHS Principal Dr. Galey Colosimo], instead of throwing up his hands and saying, ‘Woe is me,’ what he said instead was, ‘What do we need to do? How do we make this work? When we reopen, what is this going to look like?’” Long said. “We were so far ahead of that curve compared to other places it really is astounding.”
Although a small number of Soaring Eagle athletes tested positive for the virus during the season, no games had to be cancelled or postponed due to this. Long praised the students and their families for being diligent in following the protocols the school has put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus and allow the teams to compete.
“The fact that members of our community have taken some precautionary measures – it has really helped us out,” he said.
One significant challenge was competing with schools across five counties, whose health departments all had different restrictions and guidelines regarding COVID-19, Long said.
Despite the challenges, all three Catholic high schools had a full season, with several successes along the way.
The St. Joseph volleyball team finished the season undefeated in region, going 10-0 in region and 10-3 overall to claim the region title.
“We had a terrific season,” coach Cindy White said. “We were just really fortunate to have this season, especially under these circumstances. I’m just super proud of this team coming together. We had a lot of challenges. We had a team quarantine in the middle of the season; we had to play our state game without two starters. They showed so much resiliency and cohesiveness this season and it was definitely a season to remember.”
White was named region Coach of the Year.
The Jayhawks volleyball team advanced to the state tournament, but lost 3-2 in the second round of play to Layton Christian Academy.
The boys golf team placed fourth at state, while the girls soccer team took third in region. Soccer players Abigail Goldner, Alexis Brown and Jaylee Vasquezv received the Academic All-State award from the Utah High School Activities Association.
The Soaring Eagle football team reached the state quarterfinals Oct. 30 after defeating South Summit 42-16 in the first round of play. In the quarterfinals game, played at their home stadium, they lost to Morgan 28-7. They finished the season 6-6 overall and 2-2 in region.
The Soaring Eagle girls soccer team advanced to the second round of state play after defeating Uintah 3-1 in the first round at Juan Diego Oct. 1. In that second-round game, they were defeated by Green Canyon 4-1 to finish the season 9-10 overall and 6-6 in region play.
“This was the second year of our system,” coach Joe Baca said. “We had 11 new freshmen; five of them ended up starting by the end of the season. The concept of a team community among the players was great.”
Baca said community support for the team was strong.
“We had Fr. Tilley, we had a lot of people at different games that in a COVID year you wouldn’t be expecting,” he said.
Fr. Stephen Tilley is pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, which is on the Skaggs Catholic Center campus, which houses Juan Diego Catholic High School as well as St. John the Baptist Elementary and Middle schools.
Baca said new coaches Whitney Shuman and Brian Ray stepped up and helped propel the team to a successful season.
Five Juan Diego tennis players made it to the state tournament at Liberty Park on Oct. 9. Singles players Ana Rico, Valeria Rico, Abbie Nelson and doubles players Emily Werner and Cierra Turner all lost in the first round.
The Soaring Eagle volleyball team had a 12-8 overall season and 7-4 region finish. They lost at state in the first round to Dixie 3-2.
In cross country Samantha Lengerich received the Academic All-State award.
In girls soccer, the Lady Bulldogs were undefeated in region 10-0 and finished the season 15-3 overall. They advanced to the state semifinals after beating South Summit in the second round 4-0 and Delta 1-0 in the quarterfinals. In the Oct. 21 semifinal game at Juan Diego Catholic High School, they were narrowly defeated 1-0 by Morgan in overtime.
“It was a good year,” coach Scott Platz said of the season. “We were pretty young; we had a lot of freshmen that played a fair amount of time. We had three freshman starters, Renee Craddock, Addie Wikstrom and Sarah Bowler – so a pretty young squad. We only had four seniors on the team, so the future is also looking bright.”
At the cross country state meet at Soldier Hollow Oct. 22 the Bulldogs girls team took eighth place.
“I was really pleased; we have a really good team – both boys and girls,” coach Jason Heideman said.
Senior Annette Rooney took fifth place in the Girls 5K race at the state meet even though she had never run competitively before the pandemic, Heideman said.
“She was getting bored, so she started running when the pandemic first came,” he said. “She found out she really liked it. So she came out for cross country and was immediately our number one runner. She had an awesome season.”
Rooney was the first-place winner at the Catholic Schools Championship, second place at the All City Championships and second place at region. She earned a state championship medal as well as first team All-State honors.
Seniors Jace Holmes and Zachary Petrogeorge, both team captains, finished 15th and 16th respectively in their state race and earned third team All-State honors. The boys team took fifth at state.
Seven Judge tennis players advanced to the state tournament at Liberty Park Oct. 9. Singles player Eva Isaac beat Richfield’s Piper Harris in the first round but was defeated by Morgan player Savannah Dutson in the second round of play. Singles players Isabella Valles and Elise Runnels, and doubles players Emery Lloyd, Mei Nagata-Brown, Justine Nicholson and Audrey Selfridge lost their matches in the first round of state play.
Ashley Cluff and Matylda Blaszczak received the Academic All-State award.
The Bulldogs boys golf team took third at state at Round Valley Golf Course Oct. 7-8. Nicholas Falkner received the Academic All-State award.
In volleyball, the Lady Bulldogs finished the season 5-8 overall and 4-6 in region. They lost in the second round to Morgan 3-0 after a bye in the first round. Peyton Ables received the Academic All-State award.