13 Championships and Counting: Building an Athletic Legacy at Corner Canyon High
Dec 19, 2019 10:29AM
By Catherine Garrett
Corner Canyon won the 5A state soccer title in 2018. (Photo courtesy AStrong Photography)
By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]
Corner Canyon High School opened its doors in 2013, which also began the process of building an athletic program. Very few teams saw success during the inaugural year, but by year two the Chargers had won a state championship in cheer, two region championships in football and wrestling and had top-10 finishes in girls golf, girls tennis, boys golf and girls swimming.
And that was just the beginning.
After five years in the 4A ranks where Corner Canyon took home six state titles, four runners-up finishes and 24 region championships, the Chargers moved to 5A for the 2018–19 year and won five state titles, three runners-up trophies and 12 region championships in one season alone.
Corner Canyon made the jump to the 6A classification this year and they have announced loud and clear that they have arrived as the program to beat in many sports. The boys cross country ran away with its second consecutive state championship while the football program won its 26th straight game, culminating in their own second straight state title. This year, the Chargers football team outscored their opponents 641 to 207, including a 251 to 70 run through the state playoffs —dominating the 6A ranks this season while taking down traditional powerhouses in Bingham, Herriman and Lone Peak.
Even the nation has been put on notice as the cheer squad won the school’s first national championship in 2018 and took seventh last year. The boys cross-country team finished third at nationals Dec. 7 in the closest meet in history — with just 14 points separating the top three programs. The CCHS football program finished sixth nationally this season, according to MaxPreps rankings.
Here’s a look at how the athletic programs have fared over the past seven years.
The baseball program slowly built a postseason presence by its third year. In 2016, they nearly had a 20-win season and went on to win three games in the state tournament, led by All-State players Calvin Millich and Marshall Nice. Corner Canyon has been back to the tournament every year since, helped by seven additional All-State players, and has a 5-6 record during that span, including three wins at state this past year. “We had a really good finish to the year last year and the program is moving in the right direction,” head coach Jeff Eure said.
After three straight losing seasons, Corner Canyon reached the 4A state tournament for the first time in 2016. Even though they lost in the first round that year, they earned a trip to the state semifinals in 2017, where they lost to Olympus. In 2018, they again lost to the Titans — this time in the state title game. Last season, they began the year with a 6-6 record before winning 14 of its last 19 games, including the 5A state championship 62-45 over Jordan.
It took more than a year to get the first program win, but finally against East on Nov. 21, 2014, the Chargers won 50-31. Corner Canyon struggled to win just eight more games over the next two seasons. The 2016–17 year began with four wins and the Chargers went on to its first winning season, ending with a 13-10 record and a 4A state tournament appearance. Following another loss in the first round at state in 2018, the girls reached the state title game last season where they lost to East 72-65.
The cheer squad blasted onto the scene rather quickly with a state title in its second year and as state runners-up in 2015–16. A region championship the next year was followed by another state title in 2017–18 — when Corner Canyon went on to win nationals — while the 2018–19 region champs came in second place last year.
Boys Cross Country
The boys cross-country team has taken the state by storm the past two years after winning the 5A state title in 2018, behind Mark Boyle’s second-place finish and Alex Harbertson (seventh) and Caleb Johnson (ninth) also in the top 10. This past fall, the Chargers won the 6A crown with Johnson placing second, Boyle third, Harbertson fourth, Easton Allred fifth and AJ Rowland 10th. The top state showings came after two years of not qualifying for the state meet and a seventh-place finish in 2015. Corner Canyon placed third nationally Dec. 7 following their dominating state performance this fall.
Girls Cross Country
The girls cross-country program took a bit to get going during its first few years before they finished 12th in 2015. Consecutive region championships in 2017 and 2018 helped Corner Canyon get on the map, particularly when Karli Branch won the 5A state title in 2017, leading her team to a third-place finish, along with Willow Collins in sixth, Kallyn Chynoweth 20th and Sara Diener 21st. This fall, Lexi Larsen’s eighth place showing helped the Chargers to sixth place.
The Charelles drill team won three consecutive region championships from 2014 to 2017. They also placed in the top five at state for consecutive years, according to former head coach Jordan Peterson. All-State drill team recipients have included Bailey Bell, Ellie Kilgore, Lexi Kilgore, Gracie Snow, Wllie Spiers and Katie Wilson.
The football program began its inaugural season with three straight losses and ended up with a 6-6 season. In 2014, Corner Canyon turned things around with a region championship — going 10-0 in the regular season — before losing in the 4A state semifinals. A trip to the postseason has been common ever since, particularly the past three seasons with consecutive region championships, three straight undefeated regular seasons and two state championships with one runners-up trophy. The team’s last loss was a 34-33 heartbreaker to Skyridge in the state championship Nov. 9, 2017. Since then, the Chargers have dominated opponents, winning by an average of 32 points ever since. Following its domination this season in the state, Corner Canyon was ranked sixth nationally by MaxPreps. Senior quarterback Cole Hagen was also just named Utah’s Gatorade Player of the Year this fall, an honor his father Sean also won in high school.
Rhett Rasmussen, who now plays for BYU, got the Corner Canyon golf program off to a strong start with two top-three finishes in 2013 and 2014 before winning medalist honors in 2015. The team has had five consecutive top-10 finishes since 2014, including a fourth-place showing in 2018 at the 5A state tournament behind Mitch Anderson’s individual placement where he tied for fourth. This past fall, Caysen Wright tied for seventh in leading the team to fifth place in its first year in 6A.
The girls golf team has had their own impressive run following their first-year 15th place finish in 2014. The next year, the Chargers won region — while placing third at state and stayed atop the state through the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons with three straight state championships. Jamie Connell won medalist honors this past spring in leading Corner Canyon to a second-place finish.
The boys soccer team has improved steadily from two one-win seasons early on to an 8-8 year in 2017. The Chargers made their first appearance at state in 2018, and won their first game in the postseason, before losing in the quarters to Viewmont. Last season, they again made the playoffs before losing in the first round.
The girls soccer team has made it to the postseason all seven years, losing in the first round the first four seasons before earning the region title in 2017 with a 14-3 year and a loss in the state quarters. A 13-0 start the next season ended with the 5A state championship in 2018. The Chargers again went deep in the state tournament this fall, losing a heartbreaker to Pleasant Grove in the quarterfinals.
The softball program bounced back from a 5-17 inaugural season to have double-digit wins and state tournament appearances ever since. In 2018, Corner Canyon won the region title after an 0-7 start and successfully defended their region title in 2019 with a 16-8 record.
Hayley Hill won the 200 freestyle at the 2014 4A state championship, marking the first and only state champion swimmer for Corner Canyon to date. The girls swimming team has had four top-10 finishes the past six seasons, while the boys’ top finish was a seventh-place showing in 2016–17. The program earned consecutive region championships in 2015–16 and 2016–17.
Nick Sepulveda’s appearance in the state tournament at No. 1 singles in 2015 was Corner Canyon’s first showing in the postseason. Sepulveda teamed with Bennett Moody two years later at No. 1 doubles to take the championship and lead the Chargers to fourth place as a team, its highest placement so far.
The girls tennis program tied for 13th in its first year and improved to fourth by 2014. Two 11th-place finishes followed before Lizzie Simmons/Emma Heiden won the No. 1 doubles title in 2018 and helped Corner Canyon to a tie for third. In 2019, the Chargers again placed third with several players going deep into the tournament.
Boys Track and Field
The boys track and field program built themselves into a top-10 team by the 2015–16 season, and after two more top-12 showings, Corner Canyon won state this past spring. Van Fillinger won the shot put title with three relay teams, which included Cody Hagen, Cole Hagen, Alex Harbertson, Kasey Hong, August Jacobs, Caleb Johnson, Noah Kjar, Jake Orr and Harrison Taggart taking second. Other top-three finishes were Mark Boyle in the 1600 meters and Rafael Erickson in the high jump.
Girls Track and Field
Three straight 17th-place finishes from 2014–17 strengthened the girls track and field program before the 2018 region champs took state. The 4x100 relay team of Alyssa Milford, Kayla Milford, Hallee Jones, Paje Rasmussen, Nicole Critchfield and Emma Bagley took first, with Rasmussen (second, 100 meters; third, 200 meters), Critchfield (second, 200 meters; second, 400 meters), Lindsay Akagi (second, pole vault) and Karli Branch (third, 3200 meters) also placed in the top three. Last season, Corner Canyon successfully defended their region title and placed third at state.
By its third season, the Chargers volleyball program was on top of their region and repeated the feat in 2016 when they were the state runners-up, losing to Bountiful in the title matchup. Madi Brunatti was named First Team All-State and Corner Canyon has had 13 other players honored since, as well as four Academic All-State athletes. Corner Canyon has finished in the top 10 the past three years, including a fourth-place finish in 2017 and then again when the Chargers won another region championship in 2018.
The wrestling program finished “dead last in our region,” in its first year, according to head coach Jeff Eure, as the team struggled in “starting from scratch.” During the 2014–15 season, the Chargers turned things around and claimed the region title and had their first state champion in Greg Lamb, who won the 138-lb. division. Two years later, Shaun Stockwell became the first All-American wrestler for Corner Canyon who finished an undefeated season with the heavyweight title at the 4A state championships while also leading the team to a program-best seventh place finish. In 2018, Kade Carlson, wrestling at 220 lbs., won the state title for the Chargers, who also won region as a team. This past winter, Corner Canyon successfully defended their region title.
The Chargers will also add girls and boys lacrosse in the spring to an already well-oiled machine that is the CCHS athletics program. Additionally, Corner Canyon boasts the largest mountain biking club in the nation and has won four state championships since 2015.
CCHS Athletic Director Patrick Thurman attributes the Chargers’ athletics success to a few factors, such as access to resources and quality coaches. “Not everyone in Draper is well off, but we absolutely are fortunate to be teaching in an area with families that have the means to do well in athletics,” he said. “Many of our athletes do have the ability to attend camps and get private coaching to be the best they can be and narrow their focus that way.”
The bantam and youth sports leagues in the Draper area are also well organized with top-notch coaches, which helps to train athletes with correct techniques and varied experiences to develop in athletics.
Thurman also noted that “it’s one thing to have resources, it’s another thing to help them reach the top. We have fantastic coaches with the right personalities and they have simply helped our athletes rise to another level,” Thurman said. “All of our programs here want to be great and that presents its own challenges because at many schools, you sort of zero in on the programs that look like they can be successful. But here, all of them can be and many of them already are.”
Thurman admits that’s a nice problem to have.