A lot has happened this calendar year in Gonzales County sports. From state titles to first-ever’s, it’s been tough to nail down what I believe are top stories of 2017. I wish I can repost all the awesome things these athletes have accomplished this season, but unfortunately, with a limited amount of space, I’ve had to nail it down to just one story per school. These are the top stories, in my opinion, of 2017.
Eyes on State, Lady Apaches slow build to the big stage
It was tough to pick just one story for the Apaches. Whether it was the Lady Apaches’ progress, including their first girls’ basketball playoff, or the boys’ golf team reaching state as a team, or the soccer teams impressive seasons, there was plenty of good in 2017 for Gonzales. However, the biggest story of 2017 has to be the cross-country team reaching the state race, after winning the district meet and taking third in the Region IV-4A race.
“That group of girls deserve it,” head coach Cully Doyle said of the state qualifiers during an interview before the state meet. “Even during the hurricane those girls are running.”
Despite weather conditions that canceled school, the Lady Apaches were communicating with their head coach, letting him know that they are still abiding by the weekly goals and training that have been set.
“How do you fault it? I can’t fault it,” Doyle said. “I get these text messages and these phone calls from these kids saying, ‘ok coach I got my run in.’ That’s why I go to work every day. I love these girls to death. This is probably the best, most fun year [I’ve had].”
Seniors Haley Garza and Romy Cantu have made it to the regional meet, but it took a team of seven to get Gonzales to the state meet.
“We started this a long time ago,” Garza said. “Just getting out of district our sophomore year, and then last year we were shy but this year we really worked hard. For me, I’ve been running 45-plus miles a week during the summer. I was really wanting to get better than everybody else and now we’re one of the top runners in state.”
The depth on the roster is a big reason why the Lady Apaches were able to get to the state meet. Spots aren’t guaranteed on the team, as Doyle noted, meaning the top seven truly earned their position.
As I wrote in the preview story earlier this year, a team may lean on a top runner or two to push them to the top, but the Lady Apaches have been able to count on multiple runners throughout the season, rather than just one. Due to the depth of the roster, runners are constantly pushing themselves, creating a competition for top-seven slots.
“When you see one person running their hearts out, everybody wants to tag along with that person,” Cantu noted. “Usually we start bumping up and we’re in a good place.”
At the state meet, the Lady Apaches finished seventh as a team in Round Rock, with Garza leading the race placing 31st overall at 12:48.33. The goal of coming within 60 seconds of each other was achieved that race, as Krystalynn Buesing took seventh in the group at a time of 13:34.61. Other Lady Apaches in that top seven include Veronica Moreno, Stephanie Reyna, Romy Cantu, Shelby Davis and Maura Garcia.
After the race, Doyle touted his team for their various accomplishments, but also noted that he has an incoming freshmen class full of talent as well. There’s no reason not to believe the Lady Apaches can reach state next season. The cross-country program is reaching new heights and 2017 will be a year to remember.
Nixon-Smiley teammates sign letters of intent
Off-to-college stories are my favorite to write. It’s not that I believe everyone must go to college, since I have plenty of friends who are way more successful than me that don’t have a college degree. But I do enjoy seeing the looks on the athletes’ faces when they sign that letter, signifying an important step to a goal they’ve just accomplished. In Nixon, since I’ve started covering the Mustangs back in 2013, there weren’t many female athletes that signed on to play sports after high school. This year, two basketball players signed on the same day.
Nixon-Smiley’s Lexi Trammell and Celeste Arriaga both inked their names to play college basketball, where Trammell had her eyes set on Victoria College while Arriaga will be playing with the San Antonio College Rangers.
Although it was great signing her letter the same day as her teammate, Arriaga admitted, at the time, that it would be tough playing without her friend.
“It’s going to be kind of weird because I’m used to her being on my side,” she said, “I’m used to her helping me run the offense on the court. It’s going to be really different. But I’m excited for her.”
Trammell also talked about signing on the same day as Arriaga, calling it a big moment for her.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “Someone I grew up with my whole life, we played well together. Just good to know we’re both going to move on to the next level, it’s exciting.”
Showing progress, Lady Cats look toward playoff run
It’s been a long time since a head coach has returned for their second consecutive year in Waelder Lady Wildcats athletics, but here came Martha Zuniga who is back and pushed her team to new heights.
The preview story I wrote in the Fall Sports edition talked about the progress being made in what seemed to always be an ignored program full of athletes waiting to be coached. After a successful debut season, Zuniga and the Lady Wildcats pushed it further, introducing a junior varsity team for the first time in ages. They also took the top seed out of their district in Class 1A.
In the fall sports story, Zuniga noted that “having a JV team helps not only with practice, but helps the girls who need more experience and playing time. In turn, the experience they gain on JV prepares them for varsity and helps the program all around as they are familiar with rotations, their positions, and it helps me know who I have up and coming to replace graduating seniors.”
Zuniga is also the head coach of the girls’ basketball team, and so far that team has shown improvement as well. Sometimes, consistency is all it takes for a program to move forward and the Lady Wildcats progression is proof of it.
Shiner St. Paul:
Shiner St. Paul celebrate year-end awards
This might be a bit of a copout, but the biggest story for the Cardinals is indeed a wrap-up story of the season Shiner St. Paul had. In mid-July, head coaches Dan Beal-Sestak and Jake Wachsmuth won female and male coach of the year in TAPPS 2A while St. Paul graduate Austin Barton won male athlete of the year in TAPPS 2A.
“Austin has represented St. Paul in a tremendous way,” Wachsmuth said. “He is one of the best athletes I have coached but more importantly he is a person who lives his life with great character. I’m very happy that he has been recognized as Athlete of the Year, because he has never been about individual awards. He has always been team first.”
Despite the awards being individual based, Wachsmuth noted that they could not have achieved any of this without the excellence of the athletes on the playing field.
“This is not about us,” Wachsmuth said of the awards. “Our students deserve the glory for all of their hard work and dedication. It’s only because of them that we received this honor.”
The Cardinals racked up trophies such as the 2016 football state title, the 2017 boys’ track state title, the 2016 girls’ cross-country state championship, boys’ cross-country state runner up, 2017 girls’ basketball state championship and 2017 girls’ track state championship.
If I missed any achievements it’s because the Cardinals have accomplished so much in 2017, and there’s more to come from the program.