by Tad Barton
Tanner Johnson, a two-year starter for the Bronco baseball team, saved his best for last, finishing his senior season at San Juan with the highest batting average in the state of Utah across all classifications.
Johnson’s .667 average was also tied for the fourth best batting average in the entire country. To put that into perspective, there are roughly 14 million high school baseball players in the U.S.
Tanner is the son of Denise and the late Eric Johnson and the grandson of Marcia and Steve Robinson and the late Bruce Johnson and JoAnn and Don Smith, all of Blanding.
2017-18 in review
Going back to the beginning of the school year, we’ll revisit fall sports first. The fall sports season at San Juan was highlighted by a special and unexpected state championship by the Lady Broncos cross country team.
Led by sophomore Rachel Barton’s sixth place finish, the Broncos had four runners finish in the top 15. Seniors Nizhoni Warren and Jessica Walker finished within seconds of each other in ninth and tenth place respectively, and Madison Palmer crossed the finish line in thirteenth.
Other members of the team that brought San Juan their first state championship after moving up to the 3A classification are Celeste Hillhouse, Sadie Jensen, and Joy Parker.
Volleyball also had a great season under first year head coach Kelli Keyes. With the departure of long time coach Cassie Moon, many wondered how the Broncos would do with a young team and new coach.
The Lady Broncos didn’t miss a beat, placing fourth in a very competitive Region 15 and qualifying for the 3A State Tournament. With a bulk of the team returning in 2018, the future is bright for the Lady Broncos.
Volleyball wasn’t the only sport last fall that found itself under the guidance of a new head coach. For the first time in 32 years, the San Juan football team took the field without the familiar face of Coach Monty Lee on the sideline.
In Lee’s place is Barkley Christensen, a charismatic and enthusiastic coach who led the Broncos fearlessly throughout a very trying and tough, yet rewarding season.
Those who follow San Juan football, even those who do so casually, saw a transformation in this team, which improved steadily from the opening game to the final game of the season.
In Blanding, every year begins with the same goal: to play on the final day of the season. While that didn’t happen, San Juan still accomplished many great things, including qualifying for the post season for the 40th consecutive season (a state record).
A new face to the San Juan sports scene is the first ever Lady Broncos soccer team. The girls got things off to a great start, winning the very first soccer game in school history.
San Juan played all their matches on the road, but that didn’t deter them, as they finished the season with a winning record of five wins and two losses.
Fall sports post season
Girls cross country: Jessica Walker, 3A Academic All-state
Volleyball: Ta’ssi Su’esu’e, second team All-state. Bodell Nielson, honorable mention.
Football: Baylr Eldredge, first team All-state, Academic All-state. Dylan Ivins, second team All-state. Jaden Torgerson, honorable mention. Jens Jones, honorable mention. Ethan Vess, honorable mention. Shay Laws, honorable mention.
In their first year in 3A, the boys and girls basketball teams, as well as the wrestling team, faced some stiff competition.
All three squads were up to the test throughout the season, always competing and representing San Juan High and Blanding with great effort and class.
Girls basketball came into their 2017-18 campaign looking to build on the success from the 2016-17 season. Despite facing arguably better competition, the Lady Broncos finished fourth in Region 15 and qualified for the 3A playoffs for the second consecutive year.
San Juan finished the season with a 12-9 record and a heartbreaking loss to Judge Memorial in the opening round of the 3A State Tournament.
Like their counterparts, the boys basketball team at San Juan made the leap into the 3A classification and did so head first. The Broncos were the only team in Region 15 to defeat eventual 3A state champ Manti two times in the season.
San Juan finished in a two-way tie for fourth place with Emery in region competition. The Broncos also qualified for the 3A State Tournament, where they were eliminated in the first round by Delta.
The Bronco mat men were led all season by a pair of seniors, Grange Simpson and DJ Howell, who were consistently on or near the top of the podium at each tournament throughout the year.
The highlight of the wrestling season came during the 3A State Tournament, when Simpson made his way to the championship match in the 170 lb weight class, ultimately placing second after losing by technical fall to Tanner Shields of Delta.
Howell finished his high school career with a fifth-place finish at 182 lbs.
Winter sports season
Wrestling: Grange Simpson, Academic All-state. JC Clinger, Academic All-state
Girls basketball: Bodell Nielson, honorable mention
Boys Basketball: Jaden Torgerson, third team All-state. Jaxon Torgerson, honorable mention. Baylr Eldredge, Academic All-state.
Drill Team: Brooklyn Grover, Academic All-state.
The spring sports season at San Juan was highlighted by another state championship. This time it was sophomore discus thrower Katie Giddings who delivered the Broncos their first 3A Track and Field title.
The Lady Broncos track team ended up finishing third in Region 15 and tenth at the 3A State Track and Field Championships.
Boys track was highlighted by a first-place finish at the Region 15 Championship in the 4x100 meter relay. Ethan Vess, Baylr Eldredge, Kian Conway and Jaxon Torgerson ran the race in 44.77 seconds, nearly a half a second faster than the second-place team from North Sanpete.
At the state meet, they ran an even faster time of 44.40, which was good enough for third place.
The boys team finished sixth in Region 15 and 15th at state.
It was a rebuilding and growing season for the San Juan baseball team. Throughout most of the season, the Broncos had five or more sophomores in the starting lineup.
The Broncos finished the season in last place in Region 15. Despite their struggles, San Juan competed in just about every game. Unfortunately, the Broncos came up on the wrong side of some very close final scores.
The softball team also experienced some growing pains. Mixed with some flashes of brilliance were the woes of inexperience and youth, as like the baseball team, many underclassmen filled out the starting positions in the scorebook.
The Lady Broncos finished their season 13-10 and in fourth place in Region 15.
At the 3A State Tournament, the Broncos went 1-2. After dropping the opening game of the tournament to South Summit 12-10, San Juan bounced back with a big win over Region 15 foe Emery, 15-8, to stay alive in the one loss bracket.
In their final game of 2018, the Broncos dropped a tightly contested game with another region opponent, South Sevier 3-1.
Girls golf improved throughout their season despite not being able to get on the course to practice until well into their schedule. The Lady Bronco golf team ultimately fell a few strokes short of qualifying for the 3A State Golf Championship but exhibited integrity and fair play throughout the season.
Another first at San Juan was the addition of boys soccer. Like the girls soccer team in the fall, these young men won the first ever boys soccer match in school history, a 2-1 win over Emery.
The Broncos struggled throughout most of the season but kept fighting and competing each and every match.
Spring sports post season honorees: Baylr Eldredge, Academic All-state.
Congratulations to the athletes at San Juan on another great and memorable year. For those who are seniors, good luck in your chosen area of study if you go to college or in your chosen profession if you enter the work force.
Thank you to the coaches for the time and effort to help young people become better athletes and human beings. Thank you to all the parents for tireless support, early mornings and late nights. And thank you Broncos for another great year of San Juan High athletics. Have a great summer!