The Pack ran wild this year on the field, on the court and on the track as La Joya, Juarez-Lincoln and Palmview combined to put together a successful year for the La Joya Independent School District (LJISD). From multiple district championship winning teams to a state champ, LJISD continued its tradition of excellence in athletics in 2017-2018.
Here we will look at what this sportswriter considers to be the Top 10 LJISD sports achievements of the year, either by a team or an individual. It is an objective list with the primary criterion used to determine which achievements were included and how those achievements were ranked, was how well a team, or an individual athlete, did at the higher levels of competition, such as Bi-district, Area, Regional and State.
With there being only a handful of local teams and/or athletes that succeed at the State level year-in-and-year-out, any team or athlete that earned the right to go up against the best-of-the-best across the Lone Star State and returned with one or more of the highly coveted State medals and/or trophies, will be ranked highly on this list. And while some may argue that reaching, and subsequently succeeding at, the higher levels is easier in some sports than it is in others, for the purposes of this list, success at the higher levels of competition trumps success at the lower levels, regardless of the sport.
With that in mind, here are the LJISD Top 10 sports achievements of the year:
1) Palmview Powerlifter Laisha Lopez – UIL State champion
After finishing fourth place at the state meet as a junior in 2017, Palmview’s Laisha Lopez won gold at the state meet in her senior year, setting state records in the bench press, squat and total weight record in the 97-pound weight class. Lopez, who has signed to lift at the next level for the University of Texas at San Antonio, lifted 750 total pounds at this year’s state meet, 30 pounds heavier than the second place finisher. The former cheerleader also lifted 315 on squat, 260 on deadlift and 175 on bench press, enough to bring home the second gold medal in Palmview powerlifting history.
2) Palmview Runner Brianna Robles – State qualifier in cross-country, track
Palmview’s Brianna Robles ran circles around the competition throughout her four years for the Lady Lobos’ cross-country and track and field teams and closed out her senior season strong with district championships and qualifying for the state meet in both sports.
In cross-country, Robles won the District 30-6A championship for the third year in a row, where she ran a season best time of 18.22.6. She went on to qualify for her third consecutive UIL state competition where she placed 32rd.
On the track, Robles swept the District 30-6A 1,600 and 3,200 meter-runs for the fourth straight year and added a third gold medal in the 800 meter-run with a personal record time of 2:18.87. She went on to sweep the same three events at the 29/30-6A area meet in her last run at La Joya ISD Stadium.
At her second track and field state meet, Robles ran a 10:54.68 in the 3,200 and 5:00.01 in the 1,600 to earn sixth in both events. Robles will continue her running career at Adams State University in Colorado.
3) Juarez-Lincoln Boys Soccer reaches regional tournament
The Juarez-Lincoln Huskies have built a reputation as one of the Valley’s top teams on the soccer field, and 2018 wasn’t any different as Head Coach Victor Ramos and his squad followed up their appearance in the state tournament by reaching this year’s regional tournament.
After picking up the 30-6A District championship, the Huskies went three rounds deep in the playoffs with wins over Del Rio (7-0), Economedes (3-2) and Brownsville Hanna (8-2) to earn Bi-district, Area, and Regional Quarterfinals championships before losing to eventual state runner-up San Antonio Reagan 2-0.
4) Big 7 Powerlifters – 15 LJISD athletes qualify for state
Twenty-nine Big 7 Powerlifters qualified for this year’s state championships. More than half of them came out of LJISD schools as the La Joya, Palmview and Juarez-Lincoln displayed tremendous strength in their powerlifting programs.
Palmview powerlifting, coached by Renzo Tamez, sent five ladies to the state championships, including Lopez, Priscilla Hernandez, Donna Mondragon, Natalie Villalon and Michelle Rodriguez. On the boys side, the Lobos sent two to the state meet in Juan Rivas and Abraham Hernandez, who finished second place in the 148-pound division.
For Juarez-Lincoln, a trio of Huskies made the trip to state as Eddie Hernandez, Juan Martinez and Aliver Chapa represented for Juarez-Lincoln boys powerlifting, while Yanitza Vasquez was the lone representative for the Lady Huskies.
La Joya saw two girls and two boys qualify for the state meet in Nehemiah Coronado, Keyla Puente, Alex Rodriguez and Daniel Villarreal.
5) La Joya Softball – Unbeaten 30-6A District champions
The La Joya Lady Coyotes controlled District 30-6A from start to finish, outscoring their opponents 136-24 on their way to a 12-0 record and district championship.
Head Coach Charlie Rodriguez’ girls dominated on the diamond and had four athletes earn All-State Academic honors in Alex Alaniz, Belinda Bernal, Monica Garcia and Andrea Perez. The Lady Coyotes averaged more than 11 runs a game, but made a first round exit in the playoffs.
6) Juarez-Lincoln 4×4 Relay Team – State qualifiers
The Juarez-Lincoln 4×4 Relay proved to be one of the Valley’s fastest as the Huskies’ team, made up of Jose Maldonado, Harley Vargas, Kenneth Gonzalez and Elias Gutierrez, was the RGV’s lone representative at the state meet.
While the Huskies 4×4 team placed third at the District 30-6A meet, they saved their best performances for when the mattered most. At the area meet, the Huskies’ relay team took home first place with a time of 3:24.22, and followed that up with a second place finish at regionals, running a time of 3:20.73 to qualify for the state meet.
At the state meet, the Huskies placed ninth with a time of 3:23.90.
7) Palmview Girls Track – Area champions
After finishing second in this year’s district meet, the Lady Lobos stormed back to claim the District 29/30 Championship for the second straight year, scoring 128 points, just four more than second place finisher Laredo Alexander.
Palmview placed all three of its relay teams in the top two and had some impressive individual performances in the area meet. Brianna Robles posted first place finishes while Bailey Villalon earned three top four finishes. Mariana Hernandez won silver in both the 100-meter (12.47) and 200-meter run (26.12) as did Karla Chapa in the 400-meter run (1:00.88), and Brittany Cano finished third in the 300-meter hurdles (48.38) to give Palmview it’s second straight Area championship.
8) Palmview Girls Cross-country – District champions
For the fourth consecutive season, the Lady Lobos won the District 30-6A cross-country championship. In the district championship race, Palmview had three runners claim the top three spots as Brianna Robles (18:22.60), Bailey Villalon (19:18.40) and Oma Sanchez (19:34.40) brought home first, second and third. Robles, Villalon and Sanchez all qualified for the UIL State cross-country championships.
9) La Joya Girls Wrestling – District champions
The Lady Coyotes wrestling team went back-to-back and brought home another district championship with a first place finish at the 16-6A District meet.
La Joya posted 160 points as a team, 38 points higher than second place finisher Weslaco High as Estephany De la Rosa, Veronica Montes and Haylee Guzman each won a silver medal to lead the Lady Coyotes to their second straight district title.
10) Juarez-Lincoln Boys Basketball reaches playoffs for first time in program history
The Juarez-Lincoln Huskies boys basketball team made program history by reaching the playoffs for the first time in 2017-2018. With five senior starters, the Huskies and Head Coach Albert Carillo put together a 17-8 start, the team’s best since Juarez-Lincoln opened its doors 10 years ago. The group of seniors, Cruz Mendoza, Luis Garza, Andre Suarez, J.R. Galvan, Juan Martinez, Eduardo Torres, started a winning tradition for the future Juarez-Lincoln Huskies to build on.
La Joya Swimming/Diving
Eddie Barrera and Jose Rios State qualifiers
La Joya Boys Wrestling
Jan Vela – State Qualifier
Juarez-Lincoln Football-Best record in program history