Once again, affluence is biggest factor in determining 2019 high school state champions
Jun 20, 2019 02:46PM
By Justin Adams
Corner Canyon High makes for an especially interesting case study. In just its sixth year of existence, the Chargers won four state championships, including girls soccer seen here, the second-most of any school in 5A or 6A. (Justin Adams/City Journals)
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
At the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, I wrote an article about how different criteria— enrollment, graduation rate, affluence—impact a Utah high school’s chances of winning a state championship. The conclusion was that the affluence of a high school’s community was the single-biggest determinant in how successful that school would be in sports competition.
Toward the end of the piece, I made the prediction that in the coming school year, the same (wealthier) schools would continue to win championships and “everyone else will get the proverbial participation trophy.”
So, was that prediction correct? Yes and no.
On one hand, some of the least affluent Utah high schools took home state championship trophies much more often this year than in past years. The bottom 10 5A and 6A schools (as measured by participation in reduced price lunch programs) averaged 1.6 state championships between 2013 and 2017. However, that same group of schools won four state championships in the 2018-19 school year (East, West, Cottonwood and Provo each earned one trophy).
On the other end of the spectrum, the most affluent schools along the Wasatch Front continue to dominate. The 10 wealthiest schools accounted for a total of 20 state championships (55 percent of the total), and 13 of those come from just two schools: Corner Canyon and Lone Peak. Those schools are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively when it comes to the lowest rates of students using reduced price lunches.
Corner Canyon High makes for an especially interesting case study. In just its sixth year of existence, the Chargers won four state championships, the second-most of any school in 5A or 6A. This seems to suggest that community wealth is more important than even program legacy or school longevity.
Lone Peak, meanwhile, continues to widen the divide between itself and the rest of the state. Between 2012 and 2017, the school won 15 state championships, one more than the next highest school, Skyline. In 2018-19, the school won nine state championships, more than twice as much as any other school.
Rob Cuff, the executive director of the Utah High School Activities Association, told the City Journals last year that the organization is not concerned about unequal results on the field.
“I think it’s important to maintain a level playing field,” he said, “but our mission is all about participation. If teams are fielding sports teams and students have the opportunity to play, that’s the most important.”