Salt Lake City, UT, April 10, 2019– Thirteen of Utah’s most accomplished athletes and coaches for the 2018 calendar year were honored tonight at the 8th Annual Governor’s State of Sport Awards, hosted by the Utah Sports Commission and presented by Zions Bank and Intermountain Healthcare.
“We make a significant investment as a state, as local school districts and in households across our communities to give our young people an opportunity to compete, learn teamwork, overcome challenges and all the other great lessons sports provide,” said Governor Gary R. Herbert. “I’m consistently impressed by the athleticism and the dedication to excellence shown by athletes who compete all across the globe and who call Utah home.”
The Utah Jazz were honored as the Team of the Year, while the Utah Royals FC opening game was the Event of the Year.
“Sports fans in Utah have a front row seat to some amazing talent from the high school, collegiate, professional and Olympic ranks,” said Jeff Robbins, president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission. “It is only fitting we take time to honor those who have demonstrated the skills and determination that have made them stand out this past year.”
The Governor’s State of Sport Awards honored Utah athletes in the following categories:
Highschool Male – Puka Nacua
In 2018, Orem High School Football’s wide receiver, Puka Nucua, destroyed the record book, breaking state football records in Single Season Receiving Yards, Single Season Total Yards, Career Yards, Career Touchdown Receptions, Career Receptions, Most Receiving Yards in a game, and Average Reception Yards per game. Nucua led the Orem tigers to back-to-back 4A state championships and was featured on ESPN Sportscenter’s Top Ten Plays of the Day.
Highschool Female – Tasia Farmer
Tasia Farmer became the best high school volleyball player in the state through perseverance and effort. At Lone Peak High School, where she earned a 4.0 GPA, Farmer became of the best high school volleyball players in Utah. This past year she led the Knights’ to their third consecutive 6A state volleyball championship. Farmer was named Ms. Volleyball by the Deseret News, the Tribune Volleyball Player of the Year, and Gatorade’s Utah Volleyball Player of the Year.
Collegiate Male – Josh Davis
As an Alta High School running back, Josh Davis rushed for over 5,000 yards and 56 touchdows. He’s now off and running on his college career. At Weber State University, Davis ran for over 1,300 yards this season, leading the Wildcats to their second consecutive Big Sky title and earning himself All-America honors. To cap it off, Davis won the Jerry Rice Award, given to the National Freshman of the Year.
Collegiate Female – Roni Jones-Perry
As the best player on arguably the greatest BYU women’s volleyball team ever, Roni Jones-Perry led the Cougars through an extraordinary season, collecting numerous personal accolades along the way in recognition of her amazing collegiate career. She was named an American Volleyball Coaches Association Player of the Year, a Honda Award finalist, a first-team All-American, the Provo Regional MVP, Pacific South Region Player of the Year, West Coast Conference Player of the Year, and made the Academic All-American Third Team.
Coach of the Year Male – Kyle Whittingham
University of Utah Football Coach Kyle Whittingham fostered this environment throughout the 2018 season. Picked to finish second in the PAC-12 South Division, the Utes clawed its way through the season, defeating ranked teams such as number 14 Stanford, rising up to sixteenth in the national polls. The Utes advanced to the Pac-12 championship game for the first time since joining the conference, and led the league with nine first-team All-Pac-12 selections.
Coach of the Year Female – Heather Olmstead
In her fourth year as coach at BYU, Heather Olmstead led the Cougars to victories over nationally ranked number one Stanford, number 10 USC, and 25th ranked Marquette, leading BYU to be ranked number one in the polls for the first time since 1986. Olmstead led the Cougars to 27 consecutive victories, earning the Cougars’ a four-seed in the NCAA Tournament and hosting an NCAA Regional for the first time in three decades, where they advanced all the way to the Final Four.
Paralympian Male – Keith Gabel
Keith Gabel’s life changed with a 2005 industrial accident that crushed his foot. Following four blood transfusions, 26 hyperbaric treatments, and a blood clot in his left lung, he made the tough decision to have his foot amputated. Despite the tragedy, he returned to his passion of snowboarding through the National Ability Center in Park City, progressing through the ranks to win snowboard cross bronze at Sochi in 2014. Last year, he improved his performance to win a silver in Snowboard cross in PyeongChang.
Paralympian Female – Brenna Huckaby
Growing up in Louisiana, Brenna Huckaby was passionate about gymnastics. At 14 years old she was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer which resulted in the amputation of her right leg above the knee. But after a move to Salt Lake City and a rehabilitation ski trip, she was hooked on snow. She found snowboarding reminded her of the balance beam. Park City’s National Ability Center helped her transition and she began competing in 2013 at the age of 17. Her transition was quick, and in 2018 at the PyeongChang Winter Games, Huckaby brought home two gold medals.
Olympian Male – Chris Fogt
Three-time Olympian Chris Fogt was captain of the track team at Utah Valley University when he was approached about giving bobsledding a shot. Officials correctly assumed that with his natural athleticism and a background in collegiate athletics, Chris might be ready-made for the sport. Just ten months after his first trip down the track, he was named a member of the U.S. Bobsled Team. Fogt has represented the United States on the bobsled track in the past three Olympics, medaling in Sochi in 2014. A year ago in PyeongChang, he helped pull his team together after the untimely passing of its leader Steve Holcomb of Utah. Between Winter Games, he also represents the United States as a Captain in the U.S. Army, and will be pinned the rank of Major on May 1st. He is currently attending the Army’s command and general staff college in Fort Leavenworth and will begin the Advanced Military Studies Program in June.
Olympian Female – Brittany Bowe
Born and raised in the sunshine state, Brittany Bowe played college basketball basketball at Florida Atlantic University and was a world class inline skater with 32 World Championship medals. When she saw fellow inline skaters competing in the 2010 Olympics she decided to switch to ice, and by 2014, she was on the U.S. Speedskating team. Now a two-time Olympian, Brittany has established herself as America’s top long track speed skater. She finished first in the 500, 1000, and 1500 meters at the Olympic Qualifiers and went on to win a Bronze Medal in PyeongChang.
Professional Male – Tony Finau
Salt Lake City’s Tony Finau solidified his place as one of the world’s best golfers in 2018, consistently finishing at the top of the field in the majors and finishing seventh on the annual PGA TOUR Money List, but his success doesn’t only happen on the course. Through the Tony Finau Foundation’s 2018 Luau and Golf Classic, Tony raised over $185,000 to benefit, empower, and inspire young golfers to make the most of their gifts and talent through the game of golf.
Professional Female – Lexie Floor
Lexie Floor has been a leader of the Utah Falconz for several years now. From 2016 to today, the Falconz have lost only one game. Floor has been an important part of their back-to-back championships, being named an All-Star multiple times. She took her game to new heights in 2018, being named her team’s MVP, recognition not only for her excellent performance on the field, but her leadership by example with her teammates.
Highlights of the Year
Three awards for Highlight of the Year were also presented during the event including Donovan Mitchell’s putback dunk in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets; The University of Utah football trick play against Arizona resulting in a 58-yard touchdown; and Colby Raha’s record-breaking 45 feet, 2 inches mechanical moto quarterpipe run in the Nitro World Games.
Lifetime Achievement Awards
Former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt received a Lifetime Achievement award for his role ensuring a successful 2002 Olympic Winter Games and his visionary creation of the Utah Sports Commission to help lead Utah’s sport and Olympic Legacy efforts. In addition, the Governor’s State of Sport awards honored Ambassador John Price for his support of Utah motorsports and the preservation of this important aspect of Utah’s history. Utah’s biggest soccer supporter, owner of Real Salt Lake, Utah Royals FC and Real Monarchs, Dell Loy Hansen, was honored as the Utah Sports Commission’s Partner of the Year.
The Lewis Feild Bareback Riding Award, a tribute to the late PRCA Hall of Famer Lewis Feild was presented to Caleb Bennett, who was the highest-point bareback winner in Utah’s three main rodeos – the Spanish Fork Fiesta Days Rodeo, the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo and the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo.
The eighth annual Governor’s State of Sport Awards also featured an in-depth discussion with special guests Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and Fox Sports Soccer Analyst and U.S. Soccer legend Alexi Lalas, as well as members of Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals FC.
For more information, please visit stateofsportawards.com.
About Utah Sports Commission
The Utah Sports Commission, a not-for-profit 501c6 business league and Utah Sports Commission Foundation, a not-for-profit 501c3 charitable organization, is governed by an all-volunteer Board of Trustees consisting of statewide sports, business, community, and government leaders. The Sports Commission was created to be a catalyst for Utah in its Olympic legacy efforts and to help enhance Utah’s economy, image and quality of life through the attraction, promotion and development of national and international sports. The Sports Commission works closely with communities, sports entities, and organizations to provide event services ranging from the bid process, on-site logistics, volunteer coordination, sponsorships and promotional opportunities and other related services. For more information, visit www.utahsportscommission.com
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