McCaden Adams, Pleasant Grove (Sr.)
At the midway point of the regular season, McCaden Adams has established himself as the premiere scorer in 6A which has helped the Vikings vault toward the front of the pack of contenders.
The senior is averaging 22.3 points, and was instrumental in leading the Vikings to four wins at the Tarkanian Invitational in Las Vegas prior to the holiday break.
Adams has scored in double figures in every game this season, including a 37-point outing against Timpanogos earlier in the season. The 6-foot-3 guard has versatility to his game as well as he’s averaging 5.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.2 steals.
“McCaden is a coach’s dream. He has loved and had a passion for playing the game of basketball since I first met him. He has made significant improvement each year as a high school player and we count on him to be a leader in every aspect of our program, on and off the court,” said Pleasant Grove coach Randy McAllister. “McCaden has a 4.0 GPA throughout high school and has earned his spot as one of the best players in the state this year.”
Nicole Willardson, Richfield (Jr.)
Richfield is in the midst of a nine-game winning streak, and the steady play of Nicole Willardson is a big reason why.
Willardson is averaging 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds through 13 games this season, which includes going off for 31 points in a 56-43 win at Snow Canyon during the break. She’s scored in double figures in every game but one this season.
“Nicole’s great work ethic and natural athleticism has helped her elevate her game to a high level. We look forward to seeing her continue doing those things that make her special as we enter region play,” said Richfield coach Marc Peterson.
Willardson was a second team all-stater as a sophomore last year as she averaged 12.0 points. In the fall, she was named to the Deseret News all-state volleyball first team.
Jeshua Day, American Fork (Jr.)
A year ago Jeshua Day played a key role in leading American Fork to a 6A state title, and this year he’ll play an even larger role as the Cavemen look to repeat.
Day has emerged as one of the strongest swimmers in 6A this winter as he owns the best time in both the 500 freestyle (4:46.68) and 200 individual medley (1:58.95). He finished fifth in both races at state last year.
“He’s an extremely hard worker, he’s trustworthy, reliable, and accountable for his decisions. He understands his role as a team leader. As he’s grown and developed, Jes has become a very versatile and valued member of our team,” said American Fork coach Kathy King.
His 100 butterfly time of 54.02 ranks second in 6A.
Overall, his 200 IM time ranks third in the entire state and his 500 free time is fourth in the entire state.
Jade Garstang, Skyline (Fr.)
Just a freshman, Jade Garstang has burst onto the high school swimming scene this winter and will be one of the elite swimmers to watch in Utah for the next four years.
Her specialty is the butterfly, and she’s already made a big impression as she owns the best 100 butterfly time in the entire state by nearly two seconds as she swam a 57.08 prior to the break. The time is just outside of a top 10 time in state history.
That strong butterfly stroke makes her a great medley swimmer as well as her time of 2:08.27 in the 200 individual medley ranks second in Utah this season.
“Jade is the type of athlete who hates to lose. Whether it be in practice or in a swim meet, she will do everything she can so that this doesn’t happen. The race doesn’t even have to be for first place. She will win whatever race she is racing,” said Skyline coach Charles Cullom.
Marcus Espinoza-Owens, Viewmont (Jr.)
One of the most exciting wrestlers in the state, Marcus Espinoza-Owens is enjoying a perfect start to the season heading into the new year.
Espinoza-Owens, a state runner-up last year, sits at 16-0 so far this season, including being named the outstanding wrestler at the Viewmont Invitational earlier this season.
“Part of what’s great about Marcus is he’s really a lot of fun to watch. He’s developed as a wrestler and his skill set to where he’s one of the most exciting kids in the entire state for fans to watch. Most people know who he is and they enjoy watching him cause he has such a dynamic style,” said Viewmont coach Mike Lee.
Espinoza-Owens is a wrestler who likes to score points and doesn’t like to wrestle conservative and sit on leads.
Elleni Johnson, Murray (Jr.)
Ranked ninth nationally in her weight class, Murray junior Elleni Johnson is off to a great start to the girls high school season so far.
In Christmas Clash Invite before the break at the Legacy Events Center in Farmington, Johnson went 5-0 to claim the 145-pound title. She won four of her five matches by fall, including a win over Westlake standout Emmy Finlinson in the championship match.
“What makes Elleni such a strong wrestler is that she is the hardest worker in the room. She pushes everyone to work harder and be a better wrestler. Elleni is driven,” said Murray coach Theros Johnson.
On the national stage, Johnson is a three-time all-American.