Hot Shots: Standout Utah High School Athletes on The Rise
As Utah high schools continue to grow at a rapid pace, so does the talent level of the student-athletes. Because of this, Utah has become one of the most visited western states among college coaches looking to fill their rosters, second only to California. In each of our issues, Winners Utah will look to highlight the accomplishments of those student-athletes, as they give everything they can to lead their teams to glory. This issue’s honorees share no shortage of accolades, as some are considered the very best in the nation at what they do.
By Alex Markham
Perennially a Top 25-ranked team in the nation and seven state championships, Bingham High School is considered a football powerhouse. One of the key cogs for the 13-0 and 2017 6A state championship team is 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker Junior Tafuna. The productive player has scholarship offers from the likes of BYU, Nebraska and Oregon, but there’s a clear favorite in his football recruitment. “It would be Utah, definitely,” said Tafuna. “They’re the only ones that have met my family. They keep in touch with me—all the schools do, but when I went up there, the love was just real.”
The seven siblings of the Nacua family are an athletic breed, with BYU grad Kai Nacua on the Baltimore Ravens roster and Samson Nacua playing receiver for the University of Utah. On deck is Orem High School star wideout Puka, who tallied 1,692 receiving yards (141 yards per game) and 24 touchdowns his junior year. Puka is a highly touted recruit, garnering offers from BYU, Cal, USC and Utah, though more offers are bound to be rolling in as the 6-foot-2, 190-pound receiver is a hot commodity for programs nationwide.
How many 6-foot-3, 350-pound people do you know? How many are 17-year-old, four-star athletes? Allow me to introduce you to behemoth defensive tackle, Siaki Ika. The tackles are usually the strongest on the gridiron as they hold the point of attack or penetrate the line, which is Ika’s bread and butter. With scholarship offers galore from top-tier programs, Ika is looking for a college that feels like home. “I’m going to be away from home, whether it’s a couple miles down the street or hundreds of miles across the country. Wherever makes me the most comfortable is the biggest thing or me.”
A 2018 graduate from Judge Memorial, Chris McTeague was a bright spot on the baseball diamond in his final season with the Bulldogs. A three-year letterman, McTeague led the team in batting average, hits and RBIs as well as a 3A division playoff berth. McTeague struck the ball for an impressive .413 average (28-for- 68), rounded the bases for 23 runs and batted in an additional 20. His play at shortstop, where he only recorded 3 errors on the year, earned him All- Region honors at the position.
The Spanish Fork softball program is known across America as a juggernaut—year after year, they continue to crack the national rankings, steamroll opponents and stockpile state championships. When one of their top sluggers steps into the batter’s box, Brylee Rudd, you see opponents sheepishly take a few steps back and pray the ball doesn’t come near them. And for good reason—in 2018, Rudd slugged an insane 1.403, led the state with 13 home runs and two grand slams for good measure. Graduating in 2019, Rudd has more time to improve her 130 career hits, 108 RBIs and 30 home runs.
As a junior on Grantsville High’s soccer club, Dayne Linton burst on the scene in his first season starting varsity at forward. The soccer standout compiled spectacular stats—he recorded 17 goals (second most in the state), five assists and 39 total points (fourth most). Grantsville went a forgettable 7-8 (0-8 in region) on the year, but if they are going to turn things around in 2019, Linton will need to bare a heavy load. Linton is also a Grantsville football field goal kicker and responsible for kickoffs.