Friday, August 17, 2018
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Sharyland High, Gilpin win big at All-Valley Sports Award 2018 All-Valley Sports Awards Recap

20180619 STAllValleySportsThis article first appeared in the Friday, June 22, 2018 issue of the Sharyland Times.

On stage at Mario’s Banquet & Conference Center in Mission stood Sean Elliott, the six-foot-nine NBA champion and former college player of the year, sharing advice with standouts from across the RGV at the 2018 All-Valley Sports Awards Banquet.

“Believe in yourself ... Prepare and sacrifice ... Persevere ... Character trumps talent and ... Have fun.”

The San Antonio Spurs great delivered the five tips to athletes, coaches and others in attendance can apply not only in their respective sports, but to be successful in every aspect of life.

Read more: Sharyland High, Gilpin win big at All-Valley Sports Award 2018 All-Valley Sports Awards Recap

SISD Top 10 Sports Achievements of the Year

20180601 PioneerBoysPowerliftingchampionwinnerWith 12 District championships, eight Bi-district championships, two Area championships, one Regional championship, one Regional Quarterfinals championship, two State bronze medals, two State silver medals and one State championship, it’s been an extremely successful school year for the Sharyland High and Pioneer High varsity sports teams and athletes. Of course, successful sports programs have become synonymous with the Sharyland Independent School District (SISD) and while it’s now been four years that the success has been spread out over two high schools, the fact that the Rattlers and the Diamondbacks are both continuing the winning tradition, should not come as a surprise to anybody that has followed Rio Grande Valley high school sports for any time at all.

Here we will look at what this sportswriter considers to be the Top 10 SISD 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 SISD Top 10 sports achievements of the year:

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Lady Rattlers golf team takes silver at state

20180525 STLadyRattlersGolfIt may be Ashley Garza’s first year as the girls’ head golf coach at Sharyland High School, but she has led the Lady Rattlers to their best ever finish at the UIL Girls Golf State Championship. That’s because the Lady Rattlers’ team made up of Raquel Flores, Laura Rodriguez, Carolina Cantu, Amanda Shinn-Roldan and Paulina Flores had a two-day score of 644 to place second among the 12 5A teams that earned the right to compete at the state tournament which was played at the White Wing Golf Club in Georgetown, Texas Monday and Tuesday of this week.
Formerly the assistant girls’ golf coach at Sharyland Pioneer High School, Garza took over the Lady Rattlers extremely successful program this year after former head coach Fernando Rodriguez retired. How successful was the program under Rodriguez? Six trips to the state tournament over the past six years should give you a pretty good idea.

“This was the seventh year in a row that the Lady Rattlers have made State,” Garza said. “Their best finish prior to this was three years ago when they placed third.”

Going into the second day of the tournament, the Lady Rattlers were in fourth place, three strokes behind third place Midlothian, four strokes behind second place Magnolia and 19 strokes behind first place Grapevine. As a result, unless Grapevine completely collapsed on the second day, first place was pretty much out of their reach as they took to the course on Tuesday. However second and third place were well within their reach and as Garza explained, her girls came through when they really needed to.

Read more: Lady Rattlers golf team takes silver at state

Smith’s Diamondbacks making program history

20180504 STBaseball BVMHS vs SPHSIt didn’t take long for Casey Smith’s winning ways to carry over to Pioneer High School.

After eight years as the head baseball coach at Mission Veterans lined with playoff appearances and district championships, Smith made the move to lead the Pioneer Diamondbacks. In just one season, his impact has been evident as the Diamondbacks qualified for postseason play for the first time in program history and are now onto the area round after picking up a bi-district championship last weekend.

“From the beginning, one of the things that we tried to change was the culture, and just the idea that we’re going to work at the end of the day and keep coming back,” Smith said. “I think the most improvement I saw was in their mentality and their work ethic. ... It was really neat from a personal standpoint; it’s nice because you get to see kids raise their level of play, raise their level of expectation, and can see the fruits of that labor for them come through. It’s neat to see the smile on their faces, the excitement and the feeling of accomplishment for them.”

Read more: Smith’s Diamondbacks making program history

Pioneer’s Howell gold favorite

20180507 Johnny HowellTo say that UIL State gold medals are hard to come by would be an understatement. Literally thousands of high school athletes from across the Lone Star state dream of bringing home a gold medal, year-in and year-out, but only a handful of them ever experience the thrill and honor of standing atop the awards podium and having a state gold medal hung around their necks.

When it comes to the Rio Grande Valley, the number of athletes that bring state gold medals home with them on a yearly basis can usually be counted on one hand. That is why it is such a big deal to have a valley athlete go into the state track and field meet as the favorite to take the gold medal like Sharyland Pioneer shot putter Johnny Howell is.

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It ain’t over for four Big 7 baseball teams

20180402 Baseball VVHS vs SHS LG-24Legendary major league baseball player, coach and manager Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

While Berra was referring to the 1973 National League pennant race at the time he uttered this quote, it applies extremely well to the seasons of four Big 7 baseball teams today. That’s because while the majority of high school baseball teams across the state of Texas have seen their seasons come to an end, teams like the La Joya Coyotes, the Mission Eagles, the Sharyland Rattlers and the Pioneer Diamondbacks have earned the right to keep playing on.

That’s because despite the fact that two of those teams are playing under first-year coaches and one of those teams had never posted a winning record prior to this season, the Coyotes, Eagles, Rattlers and Diamondbacks have all qualified for post-season play.

Read more: It ain’t over for four Big 7 baseball teams