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West Valley City Journal

An outpouring of love for Hunter athletics

Feb 23, 2022 08:07PM ● By Greg James

Hunter boys basketball team leaves the final two seats on the bench empty in tribute to their fallen classmates. (Greg James/City Journals)

By Greg James |

Hunter High School student-athletes and staff were greatly affected by the tragic shooting of its students on Jan. 13. The outreach from opposing teams has been edifying.

“The community has shown Hunter High faculty and students a lot of support and love,” Wolverines Athletic Director Pam Olson said.

The victims of the shooting were football players at the school, 14-year-old Tivani Lopati and 15-year-old Paul Tahi; the third victim, Ephriam Asiata was recently released from the hospital after several weeks of care.

As the athletic department moves on from such a tragedy, opposing schools have tried to relay a hand of friendship to the Wolverines.

One week following the tragic event Cyprus hosted the boys basketball team. In pregame ceremonies, Pirates and Wolverines stood arm in arm with Cyprus players wearing white and blue shirts that said “We are Hunter” on the front.

“Our kids have played with and went to junior high school with a lot of these kids,” Cyprus boys head basketball coach Tre Smith said. “Hunter has been through a lot, tragically. It was only right for us to do something special.”

Unity toward its student-athletes flowed in from all of its opponents. T-shirts were made and passed out and tributes have honored Hunter’s teams.

Morale at the school has been low. Recently students have visited a memorial on 4100 South to pay tribute to their friends. In the weeks that followed the incident the faculty and students were on high alert.

Sources around the school have seen several students withdraw from classes and parents of football players have voiced fears for them if they continue playing at Hunter.

“We are a community, we need more love to go around,” Smith said. “Everything you see is negative. I push that with these guys. Everyone needs to do their parts and leave things just a little bit better than you found them.”

Faculty and students have struggled with the idea that this happened in their own backyard with everyone processing it differently.

There have been several community events, get-togethers, food donations, and prayer circles.

“I know some of the teachers have assessed the emotional state of the students,” said one parent who wished to stay anonymous. “Teachers have encouraged those with feelings of doubt to seek help. We need to have unity, be a community. It does not matter what school you go to or if you are purple or green. We need to be together.”

Counselors are reportedly seeing cases of survivors' guilt—a stage of wonderment at what they could have done differently to change the situation.

Older generations have reached out to stop the violence.

“It was my generation that started this, it needs to end now,” a vigil member said to the crowd. “Going after the next person is not going to stop it, they will retaliate and keep the vicious cycle.” Several players stood arm in arm at the tribute with tears rolling down their cheeks as they prayed for their fallen teammates and hoped for change.