As the 2013-2014 school year comes to a close in a few weeks, it’s time to lock the field house door, turn the light off at the ball fields, lock the courts and put the golf clubs away. For Graham high school athletics, the year is done, and until the ramp up for football season begins in mid August (or perhaps much earlier than that), it’s time to reflect on the sports that have kept us entertained all spring long. Tuesday night at the Young County Arena, the players, coaches, and parents gathered for a night of food, fellowship and a few silent auction items to take a look back at the seasons that was...
Coach Allen McGee started by congratulating the work and effort that the JV team put forth this year and explained that this was a fairly young group after sending some kids up last year. The youngsters will be a shining light for Graham in the coming years as they look to capitalize on their success from this past year.
The varsity Steers team had their struggles throughout the year, but after winning their first playoff series in many years, they advanced to play in the second round and proved that hard work and dedication pays off.
Some players received All-District honors, including outfielder Bryce Reeves, catcher Hunter Hughes, and Spur Hearne. The “teammate of the year” award was given to Logan Taylor.
Other highlights included the surreal batting of Pete Marrufo, who hit .720 in district play this year, and Mike Freeze, who was voted district MVP for his play at the plate, mound and infield.
Lady Blues Softball
The final presentation of the night came from first year Lady Blues softball coach Philip Irby, who explained that the over-riding lesson he wanted to teach his girls this year was how to be a family.
What Irby certainly could not have anticipated was just how expansive that family would become in celebrating the life and athleticism of Candice Martin.
Irby printed his slogan for this year on the back of as many shirts as he could find. Thus, if you saw the words “It Doesn’t Take Talent to Give Effort,” you know where that came from.
Irby thanked the parents, booster club, and trainers who kept his team focused and ready to roll all year long. In following the theme for the night, Irby had his varsity girls join him on the stage and requested that Martin’s parents join the family in recognizing the great accomplishments of the team.
Many Lady Blues took home district honors this year, with Lexie Allen earning defensive player of the year and Cheyenne Lozowski taking home the catcher of the year honor.
In closing, Coach Irby explained that he’s “never seen a team overcome adversity the way this team did over the course of the year.”
The biggest example of that was two days after losing Martin, they went out and wanted to play a game that didn’t have any meaning other than to show the support and love they had for each other.
After Coach Sides gave the invocation and the guests dined on chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, and fixins provided by the Diner Bell Café, it was time to remember the Steers basketball Team. Coach Morris looked back at the play of Nick Martin, who was injured during football season and was unable to start the basketball season. But Martin made it a goal to play at some point and was able to accomplish that through hard work, and in a small but awesome flash of sweet sports drama, he played in the last game of the season.
Morris also explained his appreciation for his four-year starter, Bryce Reeves, who provided leadership and played the role of coach on the floor. In the end, Coach Morris explained, “the team showed tremendous resolve and showed up to practice even when they maybe didn’t want to.”
Lady Blues Basketball
Coach Lindsay Griffin was overjoyed to tell her family “thank you” for the support they showed the entire season of Lady Blues basketball. She was proud of the team that fought hard all year long, and while they may have finished third in district, “finish strong” became their mantra after finding themselves at the bottom looking up.
Griffin explained that after a particularly hard point in the season, she gathered her team and explained: “It’s all about us and nobody else. We are the only ones that are gonna pull us out of this.”
Griffin also opened the memory book on a very special person to many in attendance, Candice Martin. She laughingly told a story of a time after practice when it was customary to finish with a game of seven-on-seven to determine who would run and who was done for the day.
At the end of regulation, the score was tied and it went to sudden death overtime to determine the winner. Martin took the ball, dribbled maybe two or three times and launched a more than half court shot to be sure she wasn’t running after practice.
As the shot went in, she showed absolutely no emotion and walked off as if that was the plan all along.
Coach Griffin ended simply: “Candice – she’s got this”
Tennis is often overlooked in Texas, where baseball, basketball, and football tend to overshadow all the other school sports. Graham tennis players, on the other hand, have proven they will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
“We had a lot of growth and improvement and with our young team, we had a successful year,” Coach Matt Birdwell explained.
Holding its own in district play, the contingent from Graham finished second as a team and went up against some of the best schools tennis has to offer in Lubbock at regionals.
“This team has a lot of fight and always competes,” Todd said. “These guys are always up hitting and practicing, traveling to tournaments on their own to get better, and just sacrificing hours and hours to make themselves better, which says a ton about their dedication to the sport.”
With so many sophomores and juniors that have improved over the year, the Graham tennis team should be ready to compete for a district title and send their players to regionals and beyond for years to come.
In the world of powerlifting, the Graham Steers and Lady Blues have put others on notice that when it comes to getting it done and competing, they will accept nothing less than perfection.
Both Coaches Brad Lang and Joe Merrett could not compliment their athletes enough on the job and dedication they showed, from the six o’clock lifting sessions on those cold 30-degree mornings in January to their performance in the state finals.
Both teams were loaded with seniors across the board, leaving some tough shoes to fill next season. Coach Merrett wanted to especially thank his wife, who on many occasions rode in the suburban on the way to a meet with hungry teenagers who hadn’t eaten for days looking to cut weight. After a successful meet held in Graham, much thanks was shown to the parents and families who helped make it a winner for all.
Graham Track and Field
Coach Jim Walton explained that track in Graham is a community effort, and events such as the PK Relays would not be possible if not for the support they receive. After winning the district championship two years in a row and scoring one more point than they did last year, Walton said that losing to a great Hirschi team was certainly no shame.
Like many teams in spring sports, the Lady Blues track team dealt with enough adversity and were forced to grow up maybe a little quicker than they should, but the success of the team was in large part due to the ten graduating senior girls leaving some big shoes to fill in the coming years.
Coach Clay McChristian expressed his gratitude to the junior high coaches who do a great job of promoting the sport and send some great kids to high school ready to compete.
After a slow start, the Steers track team was able to solidify their teams and win meets down the stretch, including the district track meet.
“These kids come together everyday and compete,” explained McChristian.
Highlights of the year included Chance Moss, who was an area, regional and state meet qualifier in the shot put, and Connor Smith, who qualified for the area, regional and state meets in the discus.
The Steers and Lady Blues golf teams had commanding years in district play and ended up winning it all by 184 shots combined between the two teams.
Coach Michael Todd expressed his appreciation to the principals and administrators in GISD for understanding the difficult travel schedules teams must adhere to in order to play and compete. After many years of having to explain that the girls team was in the process of rebuilding, Todd was proud to announce that due to the success of the team this year, they are officially in the process of reloading.
While they were not able to compete past regionals this year, the Lady Blues shot a lower score every time they stepped on the course. Todd was happy to say that things are looking good for Graham golf going forward.