Local student athletes earn Academic All-State honors for fall sports season

Ten high school student athletes representing San Juan County recently earned Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) Academic All-State honors for the 2022 fall sports season.
From San Juan High School, Anthony Done, Brigham Nielson, Parker Snyder, and Taeg Palmer were named to the Academic All-State football team; Tatum Begay and Tobias Ward were honored in boys cross country; and Cooper Yoakam received boys golf honors.
Curtis Bunker and Jesse Pettit were named to the Academic All-State boys cross country team for Monticello High School and Shayla Pehrson was honored in volleyball.
The San Juan Record is proud to present a profile of each of the honored individuals featuring a photo and comments from their respective coaches.
To qualify for Academic All-State nominations, student athletes are required to be seniors with a 4.0 cumulative, non-weighted grade point average (or meet an index score – viewable at uhsaa.org) and be a contributing member of a varsity team.
Congratulations to these excellent student athletes for their hard work and dedication in both scholastic and athletic pursuits.
The UHSAA has presented the Academic All-State Award for 40 years to recognize students who excel in the classroom as well as in athletic competition. Individuals are selected for the award on the basis of their athletic ability and academic proficiency.
With over 100,000 students participating in high school activities, the Academic All-State Award is the most prestigious honor the UHSAA presents to seniors.
Curtis Bunker Monticello High School Cross Country
Head Coach Jeff Hunt: “Curtis’s back has to hurt on occasion. He has carried the emotional weight of his team for the past three years as well as all the things that he is involved in at school.
“He is the student body president and is a part of FFA, FBLA, Hope Squad, SJYC, Band, Choir, and National Honor Society. All this is in addition to the great many things he does for the community.
“He is a three-time all-region athlete and a two-time All-State runner. He is also a track medalist and a leader on the basketball team. He also might just be the friendliest student at MHS and is always willing to pitch in and help whenever someone needs help.
“Just like with Jesse Pettit, Curtis was one of the team leaders and would get practice started every day and kept it lighthearted and fun while still pushing everyone to work hard. 
“We all know running isn’t the most fun activity in the world and sometimes it’s hard to get going day in and day out. Remembering to have fun once in a while keeps everyone going. 
“Curtis was always willing to build up others as well and reminded me often that I needed to tell someone when they do a good job.”
Shayla Pehrson Monticello High School Volleyball
Head Coach Sheila Wells: “Shayla’s passion for volleyball goes hand in hand with her dedication to academics. She is an exceptional leader, understands hard work, and is constantly striving to be her best.
“Shayla is as busy as they come and definitely doesn’t have a lot of down time. But through great self-discipline she is able to balance her sports, job, and academics while still fulfilling her various church and community commitments.
“Shayla understands time management, setting goals, and staying organized. She is great at supporting not only her team, but her coaches and her family also.
“Shayla has high standards for herself which has led to her integrity. That has helped her be successful both on and off the court. She serves in her community and understands that life isn’t about her. She is a genuine friend to all and an excellent example to her peers.
“Shayla showed great resilience at the end of this season as she urged her teammates on in our final match at state. Things didn’t go the way we had hoped for her last state volleyball games, but Shayla bounced back and encouraged her teammates to fight for that fifth place win. She showed us that a person can find success amidst what others might see as a failure.”
Jesse Pettit Monticello High School Cross Country
Head Coach Jeff Hunt: “Jesse is good at almost everything he sets his mind to. Over the past four years, he has been the epitome of consistency through his high school cross country career. 
“He is a two-time state medalist and has been a three-time All-State selection. He has grown into a great leader as he consistently ran warmups at practice and was instrumental in helping some younger athletes when they were struggling. 
“Jesse and Curtis Bunker always finished their workouts without complaint and often went the extra mile after the other runners were done. Jesse was truly the team leader.
“Jesse has done a lot of great things off the course as well. He is an accomplished musician and a leader in the school band and choir. He plays the guitar and piano and tutors students after school. 
“He has been a leader in the Hope Squad/Youth Coalition and is a member of the National Honor Society. His greatest strength though has been his willingness to grow when needed and help others to grow as well.”
Tatum Begay San Juan High School Cross Country
Boys Coach Will Walker: “Tatum was a member of the San Juan Cross Country team all four years of high school. He was an outstanding runner and an excellent leader on the team.
Tatum suffered an injury during his junior year which set him back right as he was running the fastest times of his career. Rather than let injury bring him down, he showcased his immense determination and fought through it.
As a captain during his senior year, Tatum showed what it meant to be a leader. His positive attitude through adversity influenced many team members. Tatum was a great example to his peers and an amazing student-athlete.”
Tobias Ward San Juan High School Cross Country
Boys Coach Will Walker: “Toby was a member of the San Juan cross country team all four years of high school. He came from a long line of talented siblings who ran for the team.
“A consistent varsity runner throughout high school, Toby broke all the personal records his brothers set when they ran and excelled in bringing the team together off the field.
“A natural leader, Toby was an excellent captain during his senior year. He had the incredible gift of raising the spirits of those around him with his sense of humor and kindness.
“Toby was a valuable part of the team and an amazing student-athlete. His leadership and determination will be missed.”
Cooper Yoakam San Juan High School golf
Head Coach Lehi Lacy: “Cooper is the kind of kid who will work incredibly hard to achieve his goals. He is a hard worker in school. He is willing to try to learn new things and work hard to show his determination to master those skills.
“It doesn’t matter how hard it is, Cooper will always rise to the occasion. Once Cooper becomes dedicated to something, there is no stopping him from achieving greatness.
“His work ethic and integrity is truly amazing. Cooper is a great kid to have around when you need something and is always reliable to do things to his very best.”
Anthony Done San Juan High School Football
Head Coach Barkley Christensen: “Anthony is one of the brightest, hardworking, and respectful kids I have ever coached. Not only is he a very good athlete, he is an amazing student and all-around person. Anthony has been an amazing two-year starter for us these last two seasons on the field. Anthony’s true character showed up week four when he injured his MCL. He battled and came back for us during our quarterfinal game and helped lead us back to another state championship.
“Anthony was a great teammate during those weeks he was injured. He was always encouraging his teammates and was their biggest supporter. Anthony is a great student and shows nothing but respect to his teachers. He works hard and has earned a 4.0 GPA during his four years at SJH. Anthony brings that hard-working attitude everywhere he goes and is a huge part of the winning culture at San Juan High. We will miss Anthony greatly next season on and off the field. Congratulations Anthony on earning Academic All-State!”
Brigham Nielson San Juan High School Football
Head Coach Barkley Christensen: “Brigham is one of the most well-rounded individuals I have ever coached. He plays three sports at an extremely high level. He is an amazing student, he has a funny personality, and he is one of the most kind and genuine people I have ever met. Brigham stepped up for us this year and was a great wide receiver and free safety. He led the 2A in interceptions. Off the field, Brigham boasts an impressive 3.98 GPA and is a great student in our school. The future is very bright for Brigham in whatever career he wants to pursue. Great job earning Academic All-State, Brig!”
Taeg Palmer San Juan High School Football
Head Coach Barkley Christensen: “Taeg has battled a lot of adversity through the years with injuries but he is a kid I have rarely heard complain. Taeg is wise beyond his years in every aspect of life. His ability to face problems head on has made him one of the best athletes, students, and just all-around people I have seen. Taeg is a great example to me in my life on how to be tough and resilient when faced with challenges. Taeg finally got to play in a state game after missing the previous two seasons with knee injuries.
“Taeg played a massive role in our championship run this season and we were all so glad he was able to finish the year out. Despite having to miss so much school for surgeries Taeg still has an impressive 3.98 GPA. He is a huge contributor to our school by being kind to everyone he meets. I have never heard anyone say a bad thing about Taeg. I have heard him described as someone who is respectful, kind, bright, hardworking, resilient, talented, tough, and the list could go on and on. It didn’t surprise me one bit to hear he was selected for Academic All-State. Congrats, Taeg!”
Parker Snyder San Juan High School Football
Head Coach Barkley Christensen: “It’s no secret that Parker is one of the best ever quarterbacks and players to ever play at San Juan High School (in my opinion maybe even state history). But what most people don’t know is how he is off the field and in the classroom. Parker brings the same work ethic he has to prepare for football games with him in every aspect of his life. He has a 4.0 GPA and is a great student in our school. He also has a unique ability to make friends with everyone at the school.
“Parker is a true leader on the field and in the halls. I have witnessed him change lives at our school by befriending almost everyone he comes in contact with and leading them by example in showing them how to be a great student. It’s no secret that we will miss Parker’s leadership on the football field. What most don’t know is how much we will miss him leading all of our school every day in the halls and the classrooms. Great job earning Academic All-State, Parker! You have had a great career!”

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