By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – Wow! Talk about a year to remember! In the East Texas world of sports, 2016 was certainly one for the books.

As the spring semester continued, the strength and speed of area athletes was showcased. Starting with the strength side the strongest young men from high schools across the state of Texas were all gathered together in one place on Saturday, April 2 at the Abilene Civic Center to see who would be able to lift the most in the Texas High School Powerlifting Associatio
n’s (THSPA) state meet.

Among the more than 500 lifters who qualified in weight classes ranging from 114 pounds to over 275 pounds were Grapeland’s Cameron Riess and Elkhart’s Andre Agan. Elkhart’s Zack Gray also qualified for the state meet but was unable to compete, due to a scheduling conflict.

Riess, a junior, competed in the 181 pound weight class and finished si
xth in the state competition with a total of 1325 pounds lifted. He recorded lifts of 550 pounds in the squat, 300 on the bench and 475 in the dead lift.

Agan, a senior, competed in the 220 pound weight class and finished 11th with a total of 1360 pounds lifted.  He recorded lifts of 500 pounds in the squat, 360 on the bench and 500 in the dead lift.

Moving to the track and field world, Grapeland’s Rodney Davis and Lovelady’s Courtell McQuirter both finished second in the Region III Track and Field Meet and qualified for a chance to claim the title of State Champion. Davis jumped 6’4” in the high jump and tied for first with Noah Berney of Martinsville. The tiebreaker was decided by the number of attempts at the various heights and because Davis had one more attempt than Berney, Davis was given the silver medal.

Lovelady’s Courtell McQuirter won the silver medal in the triple jump with a leap of 42’-10.25”. McQuirter was also beaten out by Martinsville’s Berney who had a leap of 43’-10.75”.

In the girls’ 100m dash, Cayuga’s Stormi Lane finished first with a time of 12.45 and qualified for state.

At the Class 3A level, the Elkhart Elks and Lady Elks sent a large group of athletes to Austin for the May 12-14 event. The Lady Elks’ 4x200m relay team of Ashley Buck, Paige Huff, Kimber Douglas, Monique Ashford, Joli Ballew and Brenda Barnett qualified as the second place team from Region III with a time of 1:44.98.

Elkhart’s Zach Gray won the 300m hurdles in Waco with a time of 38.94 and was seeded first in the state competition.

The Lady Elks’ 4x400m relay team won the regional championship in Waco and was seeded fourth at Austin with a time of 4:01.75.

The Elks’ 4x400m relay team also qualified for the state meet after they finished second in regionals. The team is made up of CJ Whitaker, Trent Huff, Zach Gray, Caleb Calcote, Derrick Williams and Christian Nichols.

In the girls’ 200m dash, Elkhart Lady Elk Monique Ashford finished third at the regional meet but qualified for the state meet as a wildcard with a time of 25.61

In the girls’ triple Jump, Elkhart Lady Elk Ashley Buck placed first in the regional meet and was seeded fourth at the state meet after her leap of 37’-00.25” in Waco.

At the state meet held two weeks later, Lovelady Lion Courtell McQuirter captured second place and a silver medal in the Triple Jump with a leap of 44’-7.75.

The Elkhart Elks 4x400m relay team blazed to a third place finish and brought home the bronze medal with a time of 3:22.01. The team was made up of CJ Whitaker, Trent Huff, Zach Gray and Caleb Calcote.

The Elkhart Lady Elks 4×400 relay team narrowly missed out on bronze medal and finished in fourth place with a time of 3:59.93 while the Wall Lady Hawks finished in third with a time of 3:59.91. The Lady Elks Team was made up of Ashley Buck, Paige Huff, Kimber Douglas and Monique Ashford.

Another close finish for the Lady Elks was in the Triple Jump. Ashley Buck finished in fourth place with a leap of 36’-9” and was just behind Lexington’s Kenna Clemmons who had a recorded distance of 37’-0.25”

Sticking with the Triple Jump, Crockett Bulldog DaMarkus Griffin finished in fifth place with a leap of 45’-08.25”.

Grapeland Sandie Rodney Davis qualified for the state meet and finished in 7th place with a leap of 6’-00”.

The Elkhart Lady Elks 4x200m relay team finished in seventh place in Austin with a time of 1:44.91. The Lady Elks Team was made up of Ashley Buck, Paige Huff, Kimber Douglas and Monique Ashford.

The Elks’ Zack Gray qualified for the state meet in the 300m Intermediate Hurdles and finished in 8th place with a time of 40.5.

In addition to the two relay events, Elkhart Lady Elk Monique Ashford qualified for the state meetin the 200m dash. She finished in 8th place with a time of 25.47.

Cayuga’s Stormi Lane qualified for the state meet in the 100m dash and placed 8th with a time of 13.20.

As the spring gave way to summer, the softball and baseball fields around the area saw plenty of action. The Crockett Fire Ballz 10U qualified for the state tournament as did both the Grapeland Sandiettes 15U and Grapeland Sandies 15U teams.

When the state tournaments concluded, it was the teams from Grapeland who brought home two state championships.  The Sandiettes defeated the Mexia Lady Cats by a final score of 19-2 to capture their state title while the Sandies the Ballinger Elite by a final score of 13-8 to claim their state championship trophy.

As the 2016-2017 school year began, the hopes of area football, volleyball and cross country athletes was at an all-time high.

While the Anderson County teams did not fare as well as they would like, all three schools who play football made the playoffs. The Grapeland Sandies fell to the Iola Bulldogs in the opening round of the playoffs by a final score of 23-6.

The Cayuga Wildcats laid claim to an opening round win over the Wolfe City Wolves but fell in the next round to the Carlisle Indians.

Both the Lovelady Lions and Crockett Bulldogs advanced to the Regional round of the playoffs. Unfortunately that was where both teams’ seasons ended. Lovelady lost to Centerville by a final of 43-14 while Crockett lost on a last second field goal to the Arp Tigers and fell by a score of 35-32.

Area volleyball was exciting but unfortunately, the UIL placed volleyball powerhouses Leon and Iola into the same districts as the area teams. As a result, the only area team to make any noise was the Cayuga Lady Wildcats who advanced to the Regional Quarterfinals where the Iola Lady Bulldogs took them out in straight sets.

At the Class 3A level, both the Elkhart Lady Elks and Westwood Lady Panthers qualified for the postseason but lost their first round match-ups.

Rounding out the year in sports is cross country. Palestine Wildcat Michael Guzman qualified for the state meet and the freshman Wildcat ran the 5K course (3.1 miles) in a time of 18:07.21. Guzman finished 130 out of 151 total runners in the event.

At the Class 2A level, the Latexo Tigers finished 14th  as a team with a score of 318. The team was comprised of: Carter Catoe; Tristan Curless; Randell Holcomb; Conner McKinnon; and Sonny Townsend.

Sophomore Carter Catoe finished in 25th place with a time of 17:51.27; Tristan Curless finished 32nd with a time of 17:55.47; senior Conner McKinnon finished 60th with a time of 18:51.21; junior Randell Holcomb finished 95th with a time of 19:49.29; and junior Sonny Townsend finished 102nd with a time of 20:30.06.

Cayuga Wildcat Adrian Mickens, a junior, finished 104th with a time of 19:06.56.

At the Class 1A level, both the Slocum Mustangs and Lady Mustangs qualified for the state meet. The Lady Mustangs team finished in 13th place with a score of 326. The team members were: Shelby Bowman; Christy Dunnam; Caroline Gray; Jalyn Fletcher; Tiffany Jackson; Courtney January; and Laney Lasiter.

Sophomore Courtney January finished 27th with a time of 13.28.24; senior Christy Dunham finished 35th with a time of 13:40.12; freshman Caroline Gray finished 76th with a time of 14:50.28; junior Shelby Bowman finished 91st with a time of 15:34.51; sophomore Jaylen Fletcher finished 97th with a time of 15:52.31; sophomore Laney Lasiter finished 101st with a time of 16:04.22; and senior Tiffany Jackson finished 102nd with a time of 16:05.23.

Once the Class 1A girl
s had completed their event, the Slocum Mustangs team galloped over to the 5K course and finished 14th as a team with a score of 309. The team was comprised of: Randall Guess; Gage Horn; Justin Neal; Jordan Randall; and Trevor Stewart

Freshman Justin Neal finished in 5th place with a time of 17:14.61; freshman Gage Horn finished 52nd with a time of 19:15.95; freshman Jordan Randall finished 77th with a time of 19:58.89; junior Trevor Stewart finished 87th with a time of 20:34.60; and freshman Randall Guess finished 88th with a time of 20:36.19.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.