Thursday, 26 January 2017 18:43

Alta, Brighton Athletes Earn Gatorade Player of the Year Honors

Two electric Canyons athletes have shown on the playing field they know how to win from within. And now Brighton High volleyball phenom Dani Barton and Alta High football standout Josh Davis have been selected by sports-drink giant Gatorade as the Utah Players of the Year in their respective sports. 

Davis, who is mulling scholarship offers from Air Force, Army, Weber State, Southern Utah and others, was presented with the Utah Gatorade Football Player of the Year award at a Hawk home basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 24. Barton, also a member of the 2015 5A state championship girls hoops team, received her accolades shortly after the Bengals’ fifth-place finish at the Utah High School Activities Association’s 5A tournament.

The Canyons Board of Education honored the dynamic duo for their achievements at a Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017 meeting. Bottles of Gatorade in Alta’s and Brighton’s school colors were handed out to the folks in the audience. 

It’s not hyperbole to say Davis and Barton are among the most talented athletes to serve an ace or score a touchdown on Canyons’ athletic fields.  Here’s what Brighton High coach Adam Fernandez told the Deseret News about Barton’s athletic prowess:  “She’s the best female athlete in the state, hands down.  You could give her a ping-pong paddle, and next year she could be your state champ.”

Indeed, Barton’s raw athleticism was apparent in more than one sport. She helped the Bengals win the hoops title as a sophomore, and made the state finals of the 100-meter and 400-meter dash on her first try running track as a junior. She comes from a long line of accomplished athletes: Two of her brothers play college football; her mother, Mikki Kane-Barton is a member of the U.’s Crimson Club Hall of Fame; and her father, Paul Barton played football and baseball at the U.

But inborn talent is nothing without discipline. What sets Barton apart from other outside hitters is her internal drive to improve and her never-quit attitude on the court, says Fernandez who had his eye on Barton from the time she attended the school’s volleyball camp in seventh grade, when she was already playing as well as his varsity team members. She didn’t let her coach down. Barton finished the volleyball season with 418 kills and 71 blocks. She led her team in digs and landed 91 percent of her serves. She is ranked No. 4 in Utah for her accomplishments.

“What I love most about volleyball is it’s more of a mental game,” Barton told Adam Mikulich at KUTV as she was highlighted as the Prep of the Week. “It tests your mental toughness, and I just love being on the team.”

Now, Barton, who graduated from Brighton early to get a jump-start  at the University of Utah, has her eye on her next goal: competing in beach volleyball, which is a sport the U. is adding to its roster in the spring. Of course Barton plans to win, but her dreams go even farther than that. She wants to win at the Olympics. She wants to win at the Olympics. Barton has maintained a 3.70 GPA and has volunteered on behalf of her church and for youth volleyball camps. 

Like Barton, Davis was his school’s go-to guy for leadership. He scored 72 touchdowns and he earned 5,290 rushing yards as a Hawk.  Davis also has been credited with helping to revive Alta’s storied football program, and push his team to the Class 4A semifinals this year. He scored 28 touchdowns in his senior year and finished the season with 2,645 yards, breaking the state single-season record for all-purpose yards and averaging 203.5 yards per game. Davis is so fast he even qualified for the finals of the 100-meter dash at the state track and field championships last spring.

Davis is also a dedicated student, with a GPA of 3.86, and he spends his time volunteering in the community and helping in a retirement home.

Davis is the third Gatorade Utah Football Player of the year to be chosen from Alta in 32 years. Previous winners from Canyons District include Brighton’s Simi Fehoko, who won the 2015-2016 award, and Jordan’s Austin Kafentzis, who won in 2012-2013 and 2014-2015.  Jordan High slugger Colton Shaver won the state award in 2014, the year the ‘Diggers won the 5A state title. 

The coveted Gatorade title is one of many claimed by Davis over the years. The 6-foot, 170-pound running back is a two-time pick for KSL-TV Game Night 4A MVP. This year, he was named to The Tribune’s All-State Team and was dubbed an MVP by the Deseret News. If that wasn’t enough, Davis was hand-picked for the USA TODAY High School Sports' 2016 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Utah Football Team.

While Barton has already committed to the U., Davis plans to make his NCAA selection public at a Feb. 1 National Signing Day breakfast ceremony at Alta High.

Photos: Courtesy of The Salt Lake Tribune.
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