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South Salt Lake Journal

For Cottonwood athletic director, a new region is bringing his school unprecedented success

Nov 01, 2021 03:30PM ● By Brian Shaw

While the football team, pictured here in 2019, now plays as an independent, the rest of the school sports now compete in a new league. (File photo City Journals)

By Brian Shaw | [email protected]

Sometimes, new ideas bring forth new growth. The great author Arthur C. Clarke once said, “The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.” 

In the case of Cottonwood High School and its athletic program, the idea that the Utah High School Activities Association had to move the Colts into a brand new Region 7 was one that took some getting used to. 

For starters, the Colts would be flung toward Vernal 300 miles east, then back west to Tooele County and south down Interstate 15 to Cedar Hills and Payson before their region season was all said and done. The only close opponent in proximity would be rival Hillcrest. 

But athletic director Gregg Southwick said last year that he thought this new region would be a blessing for a Cottonwood athletics program that had been taking massive lumps in just about every major sport—aside from swimming and baseball—in their previous region because of a significantly reduced enrollment in sports programs at the school. 

It turns out that Southwick’s forecast was correct; early returns show that the Colts are not only competitive in the major fall sports—golf, tennis and volleyball—they’re actually thriving in region play despite the long bus rides. 

“The region placement is basically out of our control, but it’s been nothing but positives for our kids,” he said. “They’re doing things they’ve never done before; taking long bus rides to Vernal and Payson has built the camaraderie of the team. We’ve been able to eat together as a team in a restaurant in Vernal, and spend a lot of time together, and that’s something we wouldn’t have been able to do if we were placed in any other region.” 

Southwick knows the parents have questions about playing in a region that is so spread out that it takes the Colts several hours to get to away games and then get back to Murray. But, he urges these parents to look at the big picture here, and see what life lessons the kids are learning from these unique experiences that are also having a great effect on their performances. 

For example, the Colts boys golf team qualified for its first state tournament in many years after finishing second in region play. The girls tennis team under the direction of coach Tess Soracco also qualified several players for their state tournament, and the volleyball team has been more competitive in region play under its new coach than it has been in years, according to Southwick. 

“Our second singles [tennis] team didn’t lose a match and we were in the top three in region,” added Southwick. “I think we’re doing better than Hillcrest for the first time in many years. There’s a lot of pluses and not too many minuses.”  

Southwick said that after talking to the tennis and volleyball coaches that they’re “very excited” about being in a new region—one that is probably closer to the Colts level right now. 

For the next two years, the athletic director added that the Colts will remain in this new region—“until the UHSAA decides where we’ll be going.” 

For the Colts football team, Southwick added that he’s “very pleased” with the direction that head coach Casey Miller and staff have the program in, as they have now completed their second year as an independent. 

The Colts will continue as a football independent through the 2022 season after which time the UHSAA will determine whether or not Cottonwood, who finished the season at 4-5 and had a three-game winning streak, will remain without a class affiliation in football, or move back into a region. 

“We know that we’ve still got work to do to build up the numbers in these programs…especially in football,” Southwick said. “So for right now, we are exactly where we want, and need, to be.”