Sterling Scholar, check. National Merit Scholar, check. Presidential Scholar, check, check, and check.

Hillcrest High’s Alexander Cheng has won the equivalent of the triple-crown of academic achievement, a feat matched by only one other student in Canyons District history: his brother, Anthony.

Throughout their educational careers, Alexander Cheng and Anthony Cheng broke educational ground with top awards at science fairs and other scholarly competitions. But the past few months have been particularly productive for Alexander, as were the culminating weeks leading up to his brother's graduation in 2016.

A senior at Hillcrest who has been accepted to Stanford, Alexander Cheng was selected as a Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar and a regional finalist in the national Coca-Cola scholarship. He also won first place in the Materials and Biomedical category at the University of Utah’s Science and Engineering Fair for his entry, “Determining the Role of Microvascular Pathology as Reflected by Changes in Primary and Secondary Retinal Vessels in the Pathophysiology of Diabetic Complications.”

In March, 2019, he won the science category of Utah’s Sterling Scholar Competition and, like his brother before him, was named the overall winner of the 57th annual competition. Now, to cap the year, he was named one of three U.S. Presidential Scholars from Utah, and announced as a 2019 National Merit Scholar.

Joining him in earning the National Merit Scholar distinction are two of his peers at Hillcrest, Emily Langie and Bryan Guo. Eighteen CSD students were named as semi-finalists in the prestigious scholarship competition, representing less than one percent of the nation’s high school seniors. Presidential scholars are invited to name a distinguished teacher who supported them along the way, and Cheng chose Hillcrest’s International Baccaulareate coordinator John Olsen.

Each year, up to 161 students are named as Presidential Scholars, one of the nation's highest honors for high school students. The White House chooses scholars based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.

Photo credit: The photo of Alexander Cheng receiving his Sterling Scholar award is courtesy of the Deseret News. 
The famed Battle of the Ax, one of Utah’s longest-standing high school sports rivalries, is celebrating its 50th anniversary to coincide with the 50th year of Brighton High.

It was the 1969 opening of Brighton, in fact, that led to the creation of the Bengals’ annual wrestling competition against Hillcrest High. Brighton was built to accommodate growth in the southeastern portion of Salt Lake County, and stood to inherit some of Hillcrest's students. Bengal wrestling coach Don Neff and Hillcrest coach Tex Casto came up with the traveling trophy as a way to build school pride while preserving a united spirit of community through sportsmanship.

This year’s event takes place on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. at Brighton. It will be the last time that the competition will be held at the current Brighton campus—or the current Hillcrest campus, for that matter—because both schools are being completely rebuilt. Coaches Casto and Neff are expected to be honored at the event alongside former student wrestlers.

"In 50 years, a lot has changed. Computers fit in a pocket and phones no longer need a cord. Entertainment is on demand, and cars drive themselves," notes this Deseret News story about the competition's golden jubilee. "The one thing that has not changed is how two communities feel about a rivalry started 50 years ago by a couple of guys hoping to promote the sport of wrestling."

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Swashbuckling pirates, a jukebox legend, childhood classic, spookily familiar family, and timeless civil rights story: Canyons District’s fall musical lineup has something to please theater goers of all ages and interests. 

Tickets can be purchased at each school’s box office. Here is a list of show dates and times (including matinee performances):

The job market faced by today’s high school graduates looks nothing like the market of five years ago, and with the pace of change in technology, there’s no telling what tomorrow will bring.

Auto makers are already testing automated driving systems that will reduce the need to hire truck drivers, and computer algorithms are being developed that could one day replace insurance underwriters, financial analysts and even radiologists.

What does career-readiness look like for students coming of age in such a rapidly-changing world? What kinds of skills and knowledge should they be acquiring, and how?  

If you asked Jamie Hyneman, co-host of the popular TV show, MythBusters, he’d say that while accessing the right training and schooling is important, the secret to securing a fulfilling career comes down to having the right attitude. “It comes down to resilience, hard work, and self-discovery. Growing up, I discovered if you’re methodical and work hard, you can do anything,” he told high school-age attendees of the 2018 Pathways to Professions Expo, a showcase of Career and Technical Education courses available at Utah’s public schools. His appearance, a question-and-answer session narrated by Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, was sponsored by Salt Lake Community College.hynemansmall

Before he was a TV show host and special effects expert, Hyneman was a man of many trades. In his younger years, he worked as a mountain guide, cook, building inspector, and builder in addition to laboring on farms and in libraries. At first blush, his resume might appear haphazard, or the record of someone who is perpetually distracted.

But Hyneman said he approached each of these occupations like an insatiably curious “forensic scientist” bent on soaking up all the knowledge he needed to master the job. “I didn’t start with exceptional skills. I’d follow-up, and follow through. I’d get my foot in the door, pay my dues and become an asset to the company,” he said.

His advice to students: Find things that interest you, and experiment with them—preferably not with explosives until you’re ready—be methodical, and don’t be afraid of failure. “Just be methodical and work hard and it’s amazing what you can do,” he said.

This strategy certainly comes in handy when it comes to orchestrating special effects, busting myths and inventing, which is what Hyneman is doing now for the U.S. military and venture capitalist entrepreneurs. MythBusters was an enjoyable and lucrative side gig that has given him the freedom to choose how to spend his time, he says. “My life now is about going into my shop, locking the door, cranking the music and coming out with something that nobody ever dreamed of.”

Asked by a student attendee when he realized what he finally wanted to do in life, Hyneman said, “I don’t think I’m there yet.”

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  • Grace Pruden has been playing competitive soccer since she was four years old. The freshman striker for Hillcrest High says the game has shaped her as a person on and off the field.

    So, when she began experiencing recurrent bouts of back pain, she heeded the warning signs, sought medical attention and took some needed breaks from training. Recently, with physical therapy, and the help of a new injury prevention programprudensmall.jpg at Hillcrest High, Pruden says she’s feeling “healthy and strong” coming into a new season this fall. “I’m leaps and bounds from where I used to be,” she says.

    But for every teen athlete who takes steps to safeguard their health, there are thousands who are compelled to push their growing bodies to a breaking point, contributing to what some are calling an epidemic in youth sports injuries.

    “Many of these injuries, such as concussions and ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] tears, can be life-altering,” says Robin Cecil, a doctor of physical therapy and an assistant girls soccer coach at Hillcrest. “But the good news is that these traumas, along with overuse injuries, such as muscle strains and knee and ankle sprains, are preventable.”

    There are about 2 million high school-related sports injuries annually, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Overuse injuries are responsible for about half of the injuries in middle school and high school athletes, and the CDC says half of those are preventable.

    There are many factors behind the trend. Youth sports, now a $15.3 billion industry that includes leagues and livestreamed games, is no longer a seasonal affair. To remain competitive in the eyes of college recruiters, kids are being encouraged to specialize in a single sport at younger ages, and they’re playing the sport year-round, which is placing too much repetitive stress on their still-developing bodies. “Kids are training like adults and their bodies aren’t ready for it,” Cecil says.

    But if new technologies and advances in sports medicine have made it possible to push athletes to excel, why not use these same tools to prevent injury? Such is idea behind AthleteMonitoring.com, a computer-based athlete management system that Hillcrest’s girls soccer team is test-piloting this summer.

    In competitive sports, there is a sweet spot for training. In order to optimize performance, coaches have to design programs that push athletes without putting them at risk for injury or illness, explains the Husky’s new head soccer coach Kyra Peery. “Finding and maintaining the balance between intense training and recovery and rest is an art and, increasingly, a science.”

    Athlete Monitoring is used by professional, college, high school and club sports teams around the world to gather and interpret data on athletes’ fitness and wellness. Every morning, Pruden logs in to the secure system on her cell phone or a tablet and answers a series of five questions designed to gauge how well she’s sleeping, and how much fatigue, soreness and stress she’s experiencing. Then, again, after practice she completes an assessment of the training session, remarking on her enjoyment and exertion levels, along with any health problems. “It’s easy,” she says, “and only takes a few minutes.”

    The data are then made available in real-time to the coaching team through easy-to-understand dashboards and built-in alerts, which flag certain athletes as being at risk for injury due to overtraining or other stressors. There’s even a “monotony index,” which, when above-normal, indicates enhanced risk for injury.

    The system empowers coaches to make more calculated and precise changes to their training, and to individualize training for athletes, Peery says. “As coaches, we often forget that external stressors, such as work, friends, school, and family also factor into an athlete’s recovery and performance. This helps us put the students, and their well-being, first.”

    One of the ways to reduce injuries and athlete burnout is to play more than one sport, but monitoring the workload for these athletes can pose communication and coordination challenges for coaches, says Hillcrest’s athletic director John Olsen. “The benefit of using a single data interface is that it makes it possible for everyone to be working from the same playbook, because all of us—the coaching staff, athletic trainers and the athletic director—are alerted to any health issues that athletes report.” The girls soccer team is the first to experiment with the system, but if successful, it may be put to use more widely.

    Students also appreciate the open line of communication. While taking a break from the summer heat during a pre-season training session, center midfielder Kate Timmerman described the daily routine of providing feedback to the coaches as “empowering.” It doesn’t hurt having a little extra incentive to complete the drills that coaches assign on off-practice days, she says. “It keeps everyone accountable.”

    Staying fit through the off-season is important as injuries tend to spike during tryouts, Cecil says. “It’s best to gradually ramp-up workloads.”

    With this in mind, Peery and her husband and assistant coach Brock Peery have been hosting free summer training for their players where the girls weight-train and run drills three times per week for two hours a day.

    This, coupled with the team’s student-first, injury-prevention focus, has Pruden feeling optimistic about the fall season. “The team is looking really strong,” she says, “and it’s been a relief to see the improvement with my back and my health.”

    Injury Prevention Tips

    All sports carry the risk of injury. Fortunately, the benefits of sports outweigh most of the risks, and many injuries are preventable—especially those due to overuse or overtraining.
    • Take a Break: It’s important to build-in rest periods between training, practice and competitions. A useful rule-of-thumb is that children under the age of 16 should not practice more hours per week at a given sport than their age in years. 
    • Self-care: It’s important for athletes to eat a healthy diet and consume enough calories. Getting enough rest and liquids are equally vital. 
    • Keep it Fun: Training should be fun and invigorating. If it feels monotonous or painful, that can be a sign that you’re pushing too hard. 
    • Play Safe: Good sportsmanship and adherence to game rules can reduce the risk for injury.
    • Manageable Workload: With training, it’s important to use proper technique and to keep weekly workload increases under 15 percent.
    • Warm-up & Cool Down: It’s important to do dynamic warm-ups before training to pre-stretch and activate muscles without overstretching them, and to do cool downs afterward.
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