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High school sports 20 for 20: Desert Hills striker Ben Simister remains positive despite disappointment of canceled season

Ben Simister scored 21 goals as a junior and he was hoping to surpass that total this spring as the Thunder were one of the state title contenders

Desert Hills and Sky View compete in the 4A boys soccer championship at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, May 11, 2019.
Desert Hills’ Ben Simister shoots the ball during last year’s 4A state championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Editor’s Note: For 20 days in April, the Deseret News will profile 20 elite high school athletes from the 2020 graduating class and how they’re coping with the premature end of senior life on and off the field.

ST. GEORGE — One of nine returning starters on Desert Hills’ state runner-up soccer team last season, Ben Simister had big, big expectations for his senior season.

Between surpassing the 21 goals he scored as a junior, to chasing another state title he was fortunate enough to win as a sophomore, there was a lot the reigning first team all-stater and his Thunder teammates hoped to accomplish this spring.

With Gov. Gary Herbert’s decision to close schools for the remainder of the season on Tuesday, which the UHSAA followed shortly thereafter by canceling the rest of the spring sports calendar, Simister will no longer get that chance.

“We started the season strong. As a team, it’s been tough,” said Simister. “We had high goals for this year.”

In the two weeks before high school sports was suspended on March 16, Desert Hills was fortunate enough to play six games — more than most teams in Utah.

It post a 5-1 record in those games, with Simister scoring six of his team’s 15 goals. With the strong start to the season he seemed poised to surpass his 21 goals from a year ago.

His final goal ended up coming in a 4-1 win over Crimson Cliffs on Friday, March 13. The day prior the UHSAA announced that it was suspending high school sports after the weekend, and both teams wondered if they were preparing for their final game of the season.

“We had talked about it as a team the day before at practice, and we said if for some reason this is our last game we’re going to work as hard as we can, we’re going to leave everything out on the field,” said Simister, who is proud to say he did just that.

That mentality helps him finish his career with an impressive 48 career goals in four varsity seasons.

He could’ve easily added another 15 or 20 goals to that total, but because of COVID-19 the top striker in 4A won’t get that chance. He’s keeping his spirits up though despite the disappointment.

“I just always try and be positive about it. If I think about it long term, for the amount of time it is in my life it won’t affect me throughout my whole life and won’t be like this always. Just hoping for better days,” said Simister.

Over the past month he’s tried to keep in soccer shape on his own time in case the UHSAA restarted the season. With that hope now extinguished, Simister wonders if he’ll ever play competitive soccer again.

He isn’t planning on playing college soccer, and instead planning on enrolling at BYU in the fall of 2022 after serving his two-year The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

He’s supposed to report for his mission on July 14, but like everything in life right now that’s a bit up in the air.

Until that time, he’ll keep adjusting to the “new normal” that has denied him a chance to spend the final couple of months of his high school career chasing state title dreams with his friends again.