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Simply put, it was a great year for the athletics program at Veterans Memorial High School. At the Rio Grande Valley Sports Banquet held last week the Patriots were nominated for multiple categories, including Boys Program of the Year, Moment of the Year, Coach of the Year and Girls Team of the Year. Though no actual hardware came home, the nominations themselves proved 2010-11 was a special year.
It all started in the fall when Patriots’ football, volleyball and girls cross-country emerged from the regular season as district champions. It was about as good of a start to the school year as any program could ask for.
Headlining the success were those under the Friday night lights. Coach David Gilpin's football team went 10-2 on the year, were named district co-champs and won their first ever bi-district game. All three successes—record, co-champs and bi-district win—were firsts for the Patriots.
Helping make the headlines were plenty of players. Quarterback Adrian Morales led the charge and got help from wide receivers Jacob Garza, Raul Becerril, Ruben Casiano and Kent Warren. Behind Morales was Alex Sanchez at running back. For his offensive production, Morales was named to the RGV All-Valley First Team.
Joining Morales on that list was the defensive power of safety Jacob Garza. Though playing both sides of the ball, Garza's preference for impact was the defense. For his play Garza was named to the first team. On the second team, defensive lineman Gilbert Gonzalez, linebacker Randy Lee Flores and defensive back Frankie Nevares were all recognized. All made the district list, with Flores named as the District's Defensive Most Valuable Player. In addition, Flores was named to the All-State team.
Football was not alone in its success. The volleyball squad proved to be just as dominant. Led by junior JeNeva Jimenez—a second team All-Valley selection—the Lady Patriots took first in district. Joining Jimenez on the All-District list were Melissa Luna—the Liberto of the Year—and Crystal Garcia, a second team selection.
The girls of cross-country were plenty successful as well. Kathy Howell's team took home the district title behind the strong running of Kristina Cantu, Gracie Jimenez, Andrea Leal and Kassie Espinosa. All four runners finished in the top ten at district and moved on to compete at regionals.
In the winter, the girls and boys basketball teams both were able to make it to the post season. For the girls, sophomore Briana Casas was the team's best player. Casas garnered first team All-District, as well as a third team selection for All-Valley. There were plenty of players who also made it on the All-District list, including Norma Morales, the district's top defensive player, first team selection Kassy Lopez, and second team honorees Lily Rocha, Gisela Angeles and Krystal Flores.
For the boys, three players made the district lists. Big man Kent Warren and guard Joshua Villarreal were first team selections while Arnold Gonzalez was placed on the second team.
Perhaps the greatest individual performance of the year, for the Patriots, can be given to wrestler Rudy Gonzalez. The 125-pound wrestler took home his fourth straight district title and then proceeded to go on to win the region title and then place third at state in Austin. In order to take third, Gonzalez had to win four of five matches, including the last two in the loser's bracket.
Though competing in a smaller district of 61-4A, the boys and girls soccer squads had plenty of honorees on the All-District lists. Further, both teams moved onto the post season in fairly successful seasons.
The girls had a surprising six players named to the first team. Danielala Cardoza was named the district's top offensive player while Sara Guerra was named the co-defensive player of the year. The four others who made the first team, included Priscilla Gonzalez, Katie Rodriguez, Alyssa Guerra and Alissa Castaneda.
For the Patriot boys, they had three first team selections. Sergio Romero earned his honor for his offensive prowess while teammates Jose Reyes and Chris Ochoa garnered their awards for the work in the midfield and defense, respectively.
On the diamond, softball and baseball produced some strong athletes as well. Softball saw Lynn Rodrguez and Prissy Garza selected to the second team all-district.
Baseball's all-district lists have yet to be released, but some strong hitters and pitchers helped Casey Smith's team make the post season for the second year in a row. Adrian Morales and Isaac Guerrero were two of many outstanding Patriot hitters. Both athletes hit four home runs apiece and had batting averages above. 300. On the mound, Desi Villarreal and Julian Fernandez nearly equaled each other in strikeouts—80 to 79—and had ERA's of 3.13 and 2.39, respectively.
To conclude the sports year, Kathy Howell's track and field team equaled the success of the cross country team by winning the district title. The team swept the relays, winning the 400, 800 and 1600, while placing seven district champs: Keilah Garcia for discuss, Crystal Garcia for high jump, Becca Lopez for triple jump and the 100, Kristina Cantu in the 800 and 400 and Brittanni Saenz in the 300 hurdles.
While the boys didn't win or place in the district meet, the team won the 400 relay and Jacob Garza took first in the 100 and the 200. The two district titles only added to Garza's strong resume of athletic performances.
Like Garza, the Patriot program had plenty of success and brought home the hardware to prove it. Yes, simply put, 2010-11 was a great year.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.