Sometimes it seems as if sports awards are a dime a dozen. Some organizations and associations out there give out sports awards almost as if they’re handing out candy to the neighborhood kids at Halloween.
While oversaturation may have caused some sports awards to lose their luster, that is certainly not the case when it comes to the annual Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame awards. Their awards, and to a somewhat lesser degree their nominations, are so hard to come by that they are among the most highly coveted awards that any South Texas high school sports program, team or individual athlete can receive.
So what makes the RGV Sports Hall of Fame awards among the most exclusive of all local high school varsity sports awards? It’s actually two things. First, each of their awards includes all sports, and second, they are Valleywide. As a result each nominee is selected from, and each winner has to beat out, athletes or teams from all sports from all across the Valley.
Having received five nominations, which along with Valley View High School is the most of any school, Veterans Memorial High School (VMHS) will be very well represented at Monday evening’s ceremony. With there being only two categories, 5A and a Sub-5A, the fact that VMHS fell into the Sub-5A group meant that the Patriots sports program, its teams and individual athletes had to compete against all 4A and smaller programs, teams and athletes, throughout the Valley.
VMHS’ nominations were for best program, best girls team (Lady Patriots volleyball), best girls coach (Coach Diana Lerma), best girls athlete (Shania Gilpin) and best boys athlete (Guillermo Galvan).
As VMHS’ head football coach and athletic coordinator, David Gilpin expressed what the nominations mean to him, the VMHS athletic program and the entire school.
“We tend to overuse the term ‘excited’ or ‘exciting’ a lot,” said Gilpin. “The problem is that’s the word that fits here because receiving five nominations is exciting. Three years ago, we also received five nominations and while we did not win any awards that year, what I am really excited about is the fact that our athletic program, which includes all our coaches and all our kids, has been nominated twice in four years and that tells me that we’re doing something right at this school. That makes me very, very proud.”
With Shania being one of only three girls from across the Valley to be nominated as best athlete and Guillermo being one of only four boys, they are both in very exclusive company.
“When we look at the individual nominations, we have a nominee in both the male and the female athletes of the year categories,” said Gilpin. “Guillermo is the first state champion ever at this school so that speaks for itself. As for Shania, she was named First Team All-State, which is kind of the same concept since athletes in team sports don’t medal. So in my opinion they are both very deserving of winning but whether they will or not remains to be seen.”
With three of five VMHS nominations being earned by the Lady Patriots volleyball program and with this being the first time her program has received any RGV Sports Hall of Fame awards nominations, Lady Patriots head volleyball coach Diana Lerma was quick to credit her girls for all the hard work they put into making their program, and in particular this season, so successful.
“I consider it a real honor to be nominated as coach of the year,” expressed Lerma. “The fact that my team and Shania were nominated as well is a testament to the work ethic, dedication and discipline that we have within our program. It’s something that doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve been successful throughout the years, but with the record we had this year (42-1) blew people away. That speaks very highly of each one of my girls.”
The Sharyland High School (SHS) Rattlers received three nominations for awards, and Palmview High School (PHS), with two nominations, was the only other Big 6 school to be nominated this year.
SHS nominations are the Rattlers football team as 5A Boys Team of the Year, Coach Ron Adame as the 5A Boys Coach of the Year and the Rattlers athletic program as the 5A Program of the Year.
PHS nominations are state shot put champion Felipe Valencia as 5A Boy Athlete of the Year and the 16-inning Area round baseball playoff game between the Lobos and the PSJA Bears as Moment of the Year.
The RGV Sports Hall of Fame awards ceremony will take place Monday, June 16 at 6:30 p.m., at the Marine Military Academy’s Yeckel Memorial Auditorium, located at 320 Iwo Jima Blvd., Harlingen. The ceremony is open to the public and there is no admission fee.