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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Brighton athletics enjoyed successful year as it readies for the next one

Aug 02, 2022 10:35AM ● By Jerry Christensen

By Jerry Christensen | [email protected]

“Brighton teams are strong and competitive across the board coming out of 2022 and going into 2023,” according to Brighton’s newly appointed athletic director Garrett Wilson. “Without exception, each of our teams is poised to make program progress this coming athletic year.”

The fall, winter and spring sports seasons were full of highlights and successes with only a few notable shortfalls. One of those few failings happened on the wrestling mats in late January when Brighton hosted the Hillcrest Huskies in the 52nd annual running of the “Battle of the Ax.”

“We have had close matches with our longtime rival Hillcrest over the history of the school and most have tilted toward Brighton. This year’s rivalry match, however, came down to the wire and it fell the Huskies’ way,” said coach Mason Brinkman. In fact, the last time Hillcrest beat Brighton in a dual meet Bill Clinton was in The White House. Although the dual matches over the last 26 year had often come down to the last heavyweight wrestler on each team, Brighton had always come away with the traveling trophy ax. That ax currently sits behind Hillcrest glass in their new display case—for the moment. Incoming wrestling coach Burke Gappmayer suggests “the ax will return home this January in the 53rd edition of the Battle of the Ax rivalry.”

On the other side of the ledger, Brighton’s storied wrestling program notched some highlights sending seven varsity wrestlers to the state tournament at UVU. Among those state wrestlers were twins Jacob and Isaac Tatton at 145 and 138 pounds respectively. The Tatton twins reached their four-year goal of making it to state, but perhaps more valuable, they shared the coveted end-of-season Dave Chavis award which honors wrestlers who are not only fine-tuned athletes but dedicated students possessing the heart of a champion. 

Speaking of student-athletes, Brighton placed 14 students on Utah High Activities Association’s coveted Academic All State list. To qualify, a student-athlete must be in the top 10 academically of all of his/her fellow athletes in the state. 

David Stubben - Boys Tennis

Lauren Winn - Softball

Jared Kimball - Track and Field

Caroline Rupper - Track and Field, Cross Country

Megan Jacobsen - Track and Field

Grace Garrett - Girls Lacrosse

Hunter Doyle - Girls Lacrosse, Swimming

Aubrey Smith - Swimming

Elizabeth Monson - Girls Tennis

Nicole Devashrayee - Girls Tennis

Annie Adler - Girls Soccer

Eliza Hobby - Girls Soccer

Grayson Trump - Volleyball

Savannah Cottam - Volleyball 

Track and Field came within a whisker of taking the region championship from rival Skyline. Individually, Brighton’s Academic all-state long distance runner, Caroline Rupper landed an athletic scholarship with Creighton University. “Caroline defines what it means to be a student-athlete as well as an inspirational leader for the largest track and field team Brighton has had in years,” said coach Kirk Merhish. 

Brighton football continues its program progress into the 5A elite. Coach Justin Hemm, in his final year, took the team to back-to-back region championships. Individually, three seniors inked D2 college football scholarships: Lander Barton and Tyler Knaak at the University of Utah and Jacob Reece at Arizona. New head coach Casey Sutera comes in from his last post as Defensive Coordinator at Corner Canyon High with a head of steam. “We are ready to take the next step at Brighton and push deep into the post season,” he said.

Boys tennis was most dominant of any BHS sport this year in region competition. Coach Natalie Meyer’s team swept four of the five categories and left no doubt who the region champion is.

First singles - Hardy Owen, region champion

Second singles - Parker Hopkin, region champion

Third singles - Ty Parrish, region champion

First doubles - Ford Owen and Owen Hopkin, region champions

Second doubles - Davis Turley and Cameron Grass, second place

Seniors Hardy Owen and Parker Hopkins as well as freshman phenom Ty Parrish emerged as state champions at Liberty Park’s state championships. The team came home with the second place state trophy to add to the trove of top five finishes that Brighton Tennis has earned over five decades (including 29 state championships between girls and boys tennis).  

Brighton Swimming oozed with individual talent even though as a team they weren’t in the conversation as they usually are for region and state championships. Daniel Detjen swam to new lengths in the state finals in February breaking records and garnering an individual back-to-back state championship in two categories—200 freestyle and 500 freestyle. National Hall of Fame coach Russ Lauber noted Detjen’s accomplishment: “There have been a number of athletes repeat as champions in the annals of Utah high school swimming, but Daniel Detjen is obviously a cut above. His sheer dominance in the long events the past two years is impressive; it takes a special swimmer, and coach, to focus on those long swims for a couple of years to dominate like he has.” Detjen, who takes his talents to the Air Force Academy next year, was named male athlete of the year by Best in Utah. 

Brighton continued to earn its reputation as a perennial lacrosse favorite. This newly UHSAA sanctioned sport drew some of Brighton’s most promising athletes including two USA Lacrosse All Americans—Hunter Doyle who signed with Westminster Lacrosse and Zoe Heffernan who signed with Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. Brighton’s own celebrity coach Melissa Nash was named USA Lacrosse Coach of the Year. “We played our hearts out all year. And while we only fell to the ultimate state champions Olympus, we had a spectacular year,” Nash said. 

But the highest honor awarded to any of Brighton’s stellar athletic teams was earned late in the year by Brighton’s much celebrated Special Olympics basketball team. The Special Education (SPED) department put together a team that swept regionals and then took the state championship in the gold medal game at Weber State University. “That we were victorious on the court is one thing, but we were also told by other teams that we as a group were kind and showed great sportsmanship. As a SPED teacher, the latter was the greatest triumph,” said Jared Denslow who oversees Brighton’s SPED programs and stitched together this year’s team. Seniors Gabe Salinas and Michael Mejia became well known around the school as they reveled in the high profile win. 

The state championship team was feted with a faux ticker-tape parade down the three story open halls of the new Brighton High. “It was a ‘Brighton moment’ to see the 2,200 students line the balconies to celebrate the Special Olympians as they gleefully paraded in their uniforms and with their gold medals,” remembers Principal Tom Sherwood. “This New York-style parade now becomes a standing tradition to honor state championship teams as they bring hardware home to Brighton. It was quite fitting to celebrate SPED as they headlined BHS sports this year.”