EDITORIAL | What Student Press Freedom Day means to us

We strive to be powerfully persistent.

To be a student journalist requires having grit in pursuing truth, investigating prominent stories and fighting against censorship, which is why Student Press Freedom Day’s theme is “Powerfully Persistent.”

Student Press Freedom Day’s sixth annual celebration occurs Feb. 22 and allows student journalists to celebrate their contributions to the community while advocating for the importance of First Amendment freedoms like freedom of the press. As Utah Tech University’s student-run news organization, it is important to highlight this day and all that it means to us.

The role of a student journalist is rewarding but not easy. Smiles are brought to our faces as we see the campus and community enjoy our stories; however, it occurs after several interviews, hours of writing and editing, and meeting deadlines while still tending to all of our other student responsibilities.

On top of that, we live in a world of constant information and deception, and navigating through that is an incredibly grueling task. Student journalists don’t let this stand in the way of telling the truth, even if that is going against common beliefs. We have to be the ones to stand up against opposition and confront others at face value because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t ever uncover the truth. Due to this, we often get backlash when we don’t report on the majority opinion and refuse to conform to peer pressure.

As student journalists, we are putting in the work, yet we are often not taken as seriously as major media platforms. Nonetheless, we are not just fulfilling our staff positions to get credits to graduate. We are striving to tell stories that matter.

We are proof of the “active learning. active life.” motto at Utah Tech through the hands-on experiences of our day-to-day Sun News commitments. Through interviews and taking newsworthy photos, we are experiencing the world of journalism.

For many of us staff members, journalism is the career path we are planning on pursuing after graduation. These staff positions are like our future jobs. Therefore, we take our positions on Sun News very seriously and deserve to receive the same respect and care in return.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without the freedom of the press. This freedom is often overlooked and not appreciated as much as it should be. The freedom of the press allows journalists to inform society about what is happening and ultimately helps make democracy function smoothly.

Despite this, student journalists are often left with fewer rights in comparison to both professional journalists and their fellow students. This can be seen in the way student news organizations are often deprived of their First Amendment rights, whether that be through frequent stonewalling or other forms of censorship.

Student Press Freedom Day falls on Feb. 22 because it is during Scholastic Journalism Week, and it is close to the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District decision that occurred Feb. 24, 1969. This court decision was one of the first steps in the right direction of allowing student voices to be heard. Through student journalism, we are able to push to have the voices of students heard and fight against censorship.

As a student-run news organization, we endure these struggles to make the community better one story at a time. Therefore, we will powerfully persist in seeking out the truth, investigating noteworthy stories and fighting against censorship.

Because at the end of the day, we are the voice of Utah Tech.

‘Perfect imitation of a casino’: Utah Tech event brings fun prizes and games

The clink of champagne glasses, the flipping of cards and the cheers from a big win are some of the sounds you would hear in casinos throughout Las Vegas, Atlantic City and even Utah Tech University.

Casino Night is an annual event where the Utah Tech Student Association is able to give back to its students. This anticipated event provides students the opportunity to dress up in elegance and class with the 80s and 90s theme of fashion as well as the music. Even students under 21 years old were encouraged to play classic casino games such as Blackjack, Roulette, Texas Hold ‘Em and Craps. Mock champagne and soda beverages were available for students to sip on as they enjoyed the evening. 

Courtney Grob, a guest who attended with a student, said, “It was a great excuse to get dressed up and have a good evening with friends and try something new.” 

Grob said she was surprised at how many people were at the event. She did not expect it to be so busy.  

In past years, this event has had thousands of attendees participate, and this year’s Casino Night was anticipated that 700 or more people attend.

“My favorite part is the perfect imitation of a casino,” said event organizer Asher Anderson, a senior marketing major from Mesa, Arizona. “Especially since most college students are underage and we are in Utah, there is no gambling or casinos, so it’s fun to pretend like you’re in one of those casinos you see in Vegas.”

The decor throughout the Gardner Center resembled that of a casino. As guests walked in, they were given the chance to walk across a red carpet and get photographed. Throughout the building, there were different sections for each type of game as well as an exclusive section blocked off for those with enough chips.

UTSA took the opportunity to give back to their students with high-end prizes. The first 200 students received a limited edition toothpick holder, and some of the top prizes to win this year included:

  • State park pass
  • PS5
  • Helicopter ride for 2 above Zion State Park
  • TV
  • Ninja Creami
  • Lululemon backpack
  • Nike hoodie
  • Lego set

With each raffle ticket worth $500, prizes could be won by trading in chips won in the games for tickets. Audience members at Casino Night were encouraging and cheered on those who won the raffle for these prizes.

Jon Balls, an attendee, said he enjoyed the evening with everything it had to offer, going on to say that it is a great testament to what the university has to offer for both its students and the public.

From Ken costumes to confident performances, here’s what happened at Mr. Trailblazer

Among the variety of college events at Utah Tech University, Mr. Trailblazer stands out by bringing students together in a supportive atmosphere.

During this annual event, 11 students from diverse backgrounds came together to showcase their personalities, talents and charm in hopes of ultimately winning the title of Mr. Trailblazer.

After a night full of loud cheers and applause from the audience, the contestants’ scores were tallied up, and this year’s Mr. Trailblazer was announced. The title went to Tyler Quincy, a junior sociology major from West Jordan.

Quincy said he is happy to carry on this Utah Tech legacy and help the next Mr. Trailblazer grow.

“This has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Quincy said.

The night began with an opening performance where all of the contestants danced and lip-synced to “I’m Just Ken” by Ryan Gosling from the 2023 “Barbie” movie. All of the contestants were dressed up in their Ken costumes.

Following the performance, the contestants were introduced on stage and answered one question about themselves. Then, each contestant performed an individual talent for the audience.

The contestant’s talents ranged from dancing and singing to reading poetry and playing instruments.

The 2024 Mr. Trailblazer event came to an end after each contestant was escorted onto the stage by a person of their choosing who then answered a question about them. Afterward, all of the students gathered together on the stage and waited for the results from the judges.

Quincy received the title of Mr. Trailblazer after his reenactment of “Freak the Freak Out” from a scene on the Nickelodeon show “Victorious.”

“It’s going to be hard, but getting out of your comfort zone is like the best thing that you can do for yourself and your mental health,” Quincy said. “I never imagined I would be on stage with a wig sewn to a beanie and taking it off and having my Utah Tech gear underneath.”

Along with the new title of Mr. Trailblazer, Quincy was also awarded a prize of $500. Quincy said that receiving this new title felt unreal.

Quincy was not the only contestant who received a title and cash award. McKinley Vaughn, a senior criminal justice major from South Jordan, was awarded a prize of $300 and was announced as first runner-up. Additionally, Asher Anderson, a junior marketing major from Mesa, Arizona, was awarded a prize of $100 and was announced second runner-up.

Vaughn shared that at first, he was shy and didn’t want to talk but later gained confidence from a group of contestants who loved and supported him. He then advised students who are unsure about competing next year to be 100% themselves, and that would get them far.

After the event, Anderson shared that he was talked into competing by a friend as a joke but was grateful because he was able to meet a community of students.

“Because everyone is scared out of their mind, it’s just fun because you have camaraderie, so everyone is friends,” Anderson said.

Each of the winning contestants shared that what made this experience worth it was the other contestants who helped them along the way.

Quincy said, “Connecting with all of the other guys and having those connections with them helped me realize that if these guys are confident, I am going to be confident too.”

OPINION | Fight or flight: has the Trailblazer, Thunderbird rivalry gone too far?

Anticipation, face paint, decorated posters, foam fingers and a whole lot of school spirit. That’s what you can expect to see from students on our game days against our biggest rivals, Southern Utah University

But what you can also expect to experience at these games is booing, an obnoxious arena, disrespectful signs, distasteful comments and a tense environment that takes away from true school spirit and enjoyment of the game.

It’s normal to have a rival school when attending college, but when does a rivalry get to be too much? 

Is it too much when harm and vandalism are done to a university by a fan of the rival team? 

Is it too much when brawls break out on the field between players and coaches leading to suspensions and fines? 

Is it too much when an entire club at Utah Tech dedicates its time and money to putting SUU down while making fun of its mascot, students and university? 

Since the beginning of time, colleges have had rivals. Not only do we have big rivalries like Auburn vs. Alabama, Navy vs. Army and Utah Tech vs. Southern Utah, but we have countless others all across the United States.

Rivalries aren’t all bad and can create camaraderie among students in a healthy, competitive environment. But our rivalry with SUU has gone too far, especially when it comes to sports.

When the Student Organization of Latinos invited SUU’s Latine Student Alliance to our campus to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a dance, we were able to put aside our rivalry and enjoy the celebration with other students from SUU. 

When Trailblazer football played SUU at home, SUU’s marching band came to our side to cheer on our marching band as they performed, and our band offered the same support and kindness in return. 

But when it comes to sports, it’s a completely different story. The intense and competitive nature we have created when it comes to game day against our rivals is a toxic environment that makes it very hard to enjoy a sports game, especially if we are losing. 

I went to Shadow Ridge High School in Arizona, and although there were other high schools in our district, our biggest rivals were Valley Vista High School. Valley Vista was the equivalent of SUU. Shadow Ridge students hated our rivals with everything in us and would verbally and physically show our hatred at every chance we got.

Well, the Shadow Ridge Cheer Team won the state cheer championships this year. As they were jumping up and down with excitement after being announced as the state champs, Valley Vista stormed the stage to also celebrate Shadow Ridge’s victory with them. This display of sportsmanship proved that rivalries do not have to be toxic, but they can be a healthy opportunity to support other schools and athletes.

If SUU were to win the Western Athletic Conference championship for any of their sports, would we Trailblazers support them in their victory? Would we be happy for them? Would we celebrate with them for all of their hard work and perseverance? 

Or would we be bitter, embarrassed and angry? Would we resent our southern neighbors even more simply because they had better luck and talent in making it to the championships?  

I understand wanting to be loyal to the school you go to. I also understand how being competitive is naturally embedded into our personalities, some more than others. But that does not mean our entire college journey has to be spent hating on our rivals when really, they are students too who are just like us. They are not the enemies. 

If our own university can follow SUU on social media, why can’t we Trailblazers be mature as well? We don’t have to follow them on Instagram. We don’t even have to support them at sports games, but it’s time to be respectful toward our rivals.

This means that collectively booing at the other team and shouting inappropriate comments to the players on the courts and students in the stands are actions we should extinguish from our Trailblazer playbook. 

As Utah Tech prepares for a long-awaited men’s basketball game against the Thunderbirds Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in the Burns Arena, let’s not only focus on the scoreboard but also our sportsmanship and respect toward SUU. 

As we practice better sportsmanship, we will create a more positive environment for our players, students and fans. We will be able to set an example and be known for our Trailblazer spirit that supports other schools rather than tearing them down.

No matter the outcome of the game, let our rivalry stay in the stands as we blaze a trail of respect for our rivals, both on and off the court.

EDITORIAL | Build or bust? The Student Union Building is not what students need

Dear students,

You have probably heard of the new Student Union Building, the Utah Tech Student Association’s ambitious plan to create a social hub for students on campus. But as far as the details go, we’ve noticed a few issues with the project.

The project is spearheaded by UTSA. It is proposed to provide increased dining options, larger event spaces, a new campus store and centralized student services. But these plans are largely incomplete and subject to change. Final designs for the building have yet to be completed, so students can’t be guaranteed anything.

We also find many of the tactics used to promote the building unethical and misleading. UTSA continues to advertise the Student Union Building to “meet student needs” and provide “access to campus resources,” but they haven’t been able to tell us exactly what we’re paying for. We have seen an overwhelming amount of marketing for the positive side of this project, but little to no information on the negative.

As students have expressed their opposition to the building, we have seen members of UTSA shutting them down online. As leaders of our student body, we want to see UTSA members listening and responding to the voices of student concern. This project is supposed to be for the student body. If we vote “no,” we should still be supported and respected.

Comment section from UTSA’s Instagram post about the Student Union Building between a student and a UTSA member that has since been deleted.

Similarly, we have noticed a large amount of misinformation circulating as a result of misleading advertising. If you’ve walked around campus recently, you have probably noticed posters with “$22 fee increase” in big bolded letters. What you might not have noticed is the small text printed underneath, which outlines that this increase is per year. This type of marketing is misleading to the many students just strolling past.

A sign posted outside the Gardner Building advertising the Student Union Building.

Additionally, the Student Union Building is advertised to break ground in 2026 but fails to mention that the project will undoubtedly span over at least the next decade. This means that the pledged renovations to the Gardner and Browning buildings if approved would not occur for far over a decade—a greater span of time than advertised. Current students will be long gone by the time it is completed.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we’ll be the ones paying for it.

UTSA is advertising a fee increase of $22.25 over the course of the next four years, capping at $89 per academic year. However, we find it problematic to vote “yes” for a fee increase that has no plan for exactly how it will be spent.

We don’t feel comfortable casting our votes for a design so susceptible to change. Voting “yes” means going forward blindly with a plan that could end up costing students more than they’re willing to pay for.

A vast majority of the planned additions to the Student Union Building, like a brand new UTSA office, are things that students already have or don’t need. While many of us would love to see new dining options on campus, we didn’t ask to pay for a new lounge for UTSA.

In the eyes of UTSA, the improvements that we really want to see, like improved parking, come second to constructing the Student Union Building. If the vote passes, these are changes that the university can’t expect to see for over a decade.

Our student leaders are prioritizing the wrong changes—we are in far greater need of a new testing center than we are for new dining options. The time spent rushing this project forward could be time better spent pushing for meaningful change.

With the lack of planning and reliable information currently in circulation, we do not support the project in its current state.

Our student leaders should be advocating for the changes that will benefit students most. We want to see our leaders focusing our time and resources on supporting the reason we’re here: our education. At the end of the day, students are here to get their degrees, and the focus of Utah Tech’s growth should reflect that.

The resources the Student Union Building might provide would be good for students but don’t address the main priorities of the student body. There are too many unanswered questions that UTSA doesn’t have the answer to, but they’re advertising like they do. This proposal is incomplete, and UTSA is masking its flaws with misleading marketing and backlash to those who oppose it.

UTSA has also failed to properly inform students how to vote. The vote will take place through MyUT, but the system utilizes geocaching to only allow students on campus the ability to vote. By spreading misinformation about the voting process, UTSA is tipping the scales ever more in their favor.

Voting for the Student Union Building will open Feb. 5 at 11 a.m. and close on Feb. 6 at 11:50 p.m.

But before you vote, consider the consequences of the outcome. Let your votes speak louder than misleading promises—is gambling on a project that prioritizes flashy amenities over the true needs of our student body the best future for Utah Tech?

Here’s what you need to know about Black Desert Resort

Ivins has grown 22% in three years, and Black Desert Resort will only make it bigger. Resting between the city of Ivins and Santa Clara, the 630-acre resort is four times the original 150-acres of Disneyland when it first opened in 1955.

The resort will have amenities such as a 19-hole golf course, spas, fine dining, shopping, pools and over 3,300 living spaces.

This resort also has plans to hold the PGA tour in fall 2024, a professional golf tournament that hasn’t been held in Utah since 1963. While the resort is on track to hold the PGA later this year, full completion won’t be until 2027.

The mega-resort is reported to bring 600,000 people annually, and 40,000 people for the PGA tour this fall, according to the developer.

At a joint budget meeting held Jan. 25 by Santa Clara and Ivins, Ivins councilwoman Sharon Gillespie raised concerns about the current project and its plans to hold the PGA.

“What concerns me is everything surrounding Black Desert and the PGA, what they might not have responsibility for and what we would have responsibility for in terms of operational planning and parking,” Gillespie said. “How will these conversations go, and how will we prepare for 225,000 people to visit Ivins in October?”

Currently, the two cities have plans to prepare for this influx of people, yet council members are still concerned.

Bob Flowers, Santa Clara Ivins Chief of Police, said he has full confidence that law enforcement and the infrastructure can handle this event.

“When we look at the people [emergency services] we’re going to use, it’s going to affect both cities very well,” Flowers said.

Brennan Brown, managing director at DA Davidson Group and financier for Black Desert Resort, said they have been raising money to build the infrastructure to prepare for a resort of this size. The resort, in conjunction with the DA Davidson group, also has plans for the conservation of water and energy.

“C-PACE [Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy] financing allows you to pay for clean energy enhancements to a project,” Brown said.

Both entities plan to initiate energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation enhancements.

Black Desert Resort is utilizing low-voltage power over Ethernet and an advanced regenerative media filter for reusing water.

The water usage is a concern for many residents, and the resort plans to use a third of the water that would typically be used on a resort of this size.

This resort may impact commute times for students, but it also opens up more opportunities. This resort will open 550 new jobs, from management to serving.

With a 3,000-foot boardwalk, residents and students can explore more shopping, restaurants and boutiques.

“From a high level, this really is a world-class project,” Brown said. “They’re really trying to do this right and make it a world-class destination that many people will enjoy for a long time. I think it’s going to be a great addition and a great boon to the local community and local economy.”

Utah Tech witnesses new faces with recent shifts in administration

The beginning of the spring 2024 semester brings some notable changes made to the Utah Tech University administration. 

As of Jan. 5, President Richard “Biff” Williams’ decade-long service as president of Utah Tech has come to an end. Chief of Police Ron Bridge and Director of University Events Megan Church have also stepped down from their roles.

According to a press release issued by the university, Williams has stepped down to “pursue other professional opportunities.” He is actively searching for a new role elsewhere in university education administration. 

In August 2014, Williams became Utah Tech’s 18th president and made a number of historic achievements while working with the university. Under his leadership, Utah Tech has seen a 42% increase in student enrollment, an addition of over 100 academic programs and a rise to Division-I athletic status. Williams also oversaw the historic name change of Dixie State University to Utah Tech University as a part of its focus on a polytechnic application to education.

Chief of Staff Courtney R. White has been serving as the university’s interim president since Jan. 5. The search for Williams’ permanent replacement will be overseen by the Board of Higher Education, which will be creating a presidential search committee in the coming weeks. 

Former Chief of Police Ron Bridge retired after five years with the campus police department and served one semester as the director of public safety at Utah Tech. He has been replaced by a new interim chief, Wes LizCalzi, who was sworn in Jan. 2. 

“One of [Bridge’s] biggest contributions was the work that he put in during the accreditation process,” Sergeant Juan Fulgencio said. “He helped implement many of the policies and procedures that we have today.”

Bridge began his work at Utah Tech as an administrative sergeant in December 2018 and assisted in the police department’s accreditation from the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. Only 7% of universities in the United States have achieved this status. For his role in accreditation, Bridge was honored with IACLEA’s Administrative Excellence award.

Megan Church, the director of university events and promotions, has also retired from her position to step into a new role as the manager of communications at Intermountain Health. During her time at Utah Tech, Church made contributions to the growth of Utah Tech through her coordination of all major university events, such as commencement and principal fundraisers.

Church was responsible for up to 40 annual university events and worked closely with the marketing department to assist in Utah Tech’s 2022 name change and athletic rebranding. Church managed over 300 events and eight graduation ceremonies. She also promoted student involvement by overseeing 16 interns.

“There were so many great opportunities here to grow,” Church said. “There’s no experience that I could appreciate more.”

EDITORIAL | Graduation needs to be improved before it loses prominence

Picture your ideal graduation. Maybe Taylor Swift is the keynote speaker, or maybe there will be an epic fireworks show following the closing ceremony.

Are you picturing a night graduation that goes super late with half the graduates leaving by the time the ceremony is over? No, you’re probably not.

Currently, Utah Tech University’s graduation ceremonies have leaned toward the latter. The upcoming ceremony on May 3, 2024, follows similar patterns, with the ceremony starting at 7 p.m. Therefore, we have some recommendations that can make it more enjoyable for all parties.

Something that we have noticed is that graduation has lost that special exciting feeling that was often felt for one’s high school graduation. Some of us don’t see the benefits of attending our graduation, and others have noted how many graduates leave as soon as they cross the stage. With all of this in mind, the excitement for graduation needs to be brought back, even if that means making a couple of changes.

Not to blame everything on the COVID-19 pandemic, but a lot of these graduates, especially in the next few years, did not have a high school graduation or it was completely changed. Therefore, they deserve to have a ceremony that truly represents them and all they have accomplished.

The first possible improvement to graduation is to create a winter graduation ceremony. This would ensure that students who graduated in the summer or fall semesters prior do not have to come back to campus for a spring commencement ceremony, including international students. These students who graduated early usually have to go out of their way to come back to campus for a ceremony that is now a couple of months late of the excitement.

Creating this winter ceremony can also solve some of the common issues with the graduation ceremony. Two graduation ceremonies would break up the attendance and break up the length of it. This would decrease the chance of students leaving early.

Another way to shorten the length of the ceremony could be by breaking up the graduation based on colleges. Megan Church, director of university events and promotions, said each academic college will be hosting award banquets before commencement this year as a way to make the main ceremony as impactful as possible.

Since there will already be a reception and award banquet beforehand for the different colleges, the commencement might as well be broken up. This could be done in either a few groups or even two groups. It would help make the ceremony more meaningful since graduates will be surrounded by peers from their college.

However, if breaking up the ceremony is not possible, then there might be some benefits of moving it to the morning. We would rather get up early and attend the ceremony than stay super late into the night. Sun News reporters have asked students on campus about their ideal graduation, and many said it would be in the morning.

Also, have you heard about the Iron Man World Championship? Well, this triathlon event is being hosted in St. George and bringing people from all over the world to our town for the same week of graduation. According to Triathlete, last year the Iron Man World Championship brought about 6,000 athletes and 4,000 volunteers to St. Geroge.

While this is something that the university can’t control, it does add extra chaos to graduation week. Students and families are already being advised to start making travel arrangements as soon as possible. Graduation week is already stressful enough for graduates, with moving and starting their next adventure, and the triathlon just adds another element of chaos.

Church said changes are still being made to the commencement and timeliness, and the final schedule will be released at the beginning of the spring semester.

While we are not expecting immediate changes, it is time to survey students to see what their ideal graduation ceremony is. We’re not envisioning Taylor Swift giving a speech, even though that would be awesome, but rather decisions that have the best interests of the students in mind. Especially before graduation loses its importance for the graduates.

How to survive the end of the semester by navigating burnout, stress, finals

Students keeping up with heavy workloads all while fighting for their lives preparing for finals can be an intense period and cause troubling emotions and behaviors.

As deadlines come closer, anxiety can creep up quickly. Students and professors all feel the weight as the end is nearing, and taking care of one’s mental and physical health can be crucial.

Kellie Marin, an assistant professor of communication, said: “I schedule everything, whether that be downtime or prepping for classes. It’s going to be stressful, so schedule time so you can make sure to hit the gym or do whatever you need to take off the stress.”

Students do not need to feel alone because everyone is anticipating the month-long break. Professors also are rushing around trying to prepare for their classes’ finals and last class periods.

Trisha Johnson, an intern from the Booth Wellness Center, said there are plenty of stresses that can be a part of getting ready for the holidays. Some examples of stress could be affording Christmas gifts for loved ones, studying for classes or battling seasonal depression.

Johnson said college students can effectively manage their time and prioritize tasks to prevent burnout before the holidays by taking a few minutes every day to go over tasks as well as creating appropriate boundaries and sticking to them.

“Self-care is the most important, so have a self-care plan and stick to it,” Johnson said. “Reaching out to family and friends is good practice when feelings of stress start to get overwhelming.”

The last few weeks of a semester can make or break a student’s grades in classes. The semester may wind down but the workload may not for certain individuals.

Laboratory instructor David Bean said when he was a biology major, he focused on staying consistent with studying and taking mental breaks as needed.

When Bean was a full-time student, he would average around 13 hours of work each day leading up to finals. The workload was intense and heavy for him, and the class assignments didn’t seem to budge as the last few weeks started to count down. He said what got him through was not trying to push down his emotions.

“I had to learn to allow myself to feel my emotions and stop fighting it,” Bean said. “Sometimes we just need to call our moms and cry a little, but it’s always important to pick yourself up and start grinding.”

Bean expressed the importance of not being afraid to ask questions, visiting professors during their office hours, and showing your professors you’re putting in the work so they will want to help you more.

“Just do your best,” Bean said. “Right now, it’s like hell week. Remember that it’s not always going to be this insane. Push through it and take care of yourself as much as you can.”

In times of overwhelming stress or suicidal thoughts, reach out to the Booth Wellness Center or call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.

Trailblazers return battle ax to T-Birds after defeat at home

The Utah Tech University football team lost the battle ax to in-state rivals Southern Utah University in the final game of the year Nov. 18.

The Battle of the Ax is a historical rivalry between Southern Utah University and Utah Tech University. It was revived in the 2022-2023 season where SUU claimed the ax first with a 31-17 win. Utah Tech avenged the loss six weeks later with a 48-36 victory, breaking a three-game losing streak against SUU. 

However, SUU reclaimed the ax after this season’s game with a final score of 24-16. This marked the fifth meet-up between the two schools. Utah Tech holds a 1-4 record against the Thunderbirds in its NCAA era.

Nygel Osborne, a freshman finance major from Inglewood, California, said he felt no extra pressure playing in a rivalry game and that he approached the game like any other.

“I take it week by week, day by day,” Osborne said. “I take every opponent the same, it doesn’t matter who you are. No matter what’s in front of me, I’m going to see it as the same, and I’m going to keep pushing and keep going.”

Osborne scored his first collegiate touchdown during the first quarter of the game against SUU. Later in the second quarter, he added another touchdown to his record. Throughout the night, he achieved 7 carries for a total of 60 yards.

Offensively, Utah Tech was able to move the ball through the air. They lead the game in passing yards with 227 yards. Kobe Tracy went 18 out of 37 on passing with a long of 33 yards to Daniel Thomason.

Rickie Johnson, a senior recreation and sports management major from Murrieta, California, led the game in receptions with five catches for 37 yards. Johnson said offensively, they didn’t execute the gameplay as well as they hoped.

“I feel like we just left some plays out there,” Johnson said. “I feel like there’s some things that we could have done better, but how it ended is how it ended and it can’t be changed now.”

Johnson concludes his collegiate football career here at Utah Tech with 2,057 receiving yards, which is the second all-time in program history. He holds the school record for career receptions with 158 and finished seventh all-time in touchdown catches with 17. 

Head coach Paul Peterson said in an interview with Rod Zundel for SportsVision that he appreciates the seniors for their hard work and playing tough all year.

“I think that they set the tone and are the builders of our program,” Peterson said. “They’re the glue that kept us together when it was hard, and we didn’t quite have the record that we needed, but we’re doing everything else in the right way to build this program.”

Peterson said the future looks bright as the team is filled with fresh young talent. He said most of their core guys are returning next season and that their entire offensive and defensive line is eligible to come back.

Including the last loss against SUU, the Trailblazers finished the season 2-9 and eighth in the United Athletic Conference.