2018’s top ten moments for Hays CISD athletics

Bruce Salmon, who had been at the helm of Marion High at the 3A level, was hired by Hays CISD to take over at Lehman High. (Photo by Moses Leos III)

1. Leadership changes in Hays CISD athletics
Of all the events that transpired during the 2017-2018 Hays CISD athletic season, few had as much impact as the departures of Hays and Lehman high schools’ athletic coordinators. In early January, Lehman High athletic coordinator Josh Kirkland, who had been hired by the district in late 2017, left to take a collegiate coaching position at the University of the Incarnate Word. Roughly three weeks later, Hays High athletic coordinator Neal LaHue, who had helmed the Rebel program for the past six seasons, retired from coaching in public schools, and later became an assistant coach at Texas Lutheran University. In March, Les Goad, who led Geronimo Navarro to success at the 4A level, was tabbed to become Hays High’s fourth head football coach and athletic coordinator in its history. At the same time, Bruce Salmon, who had been at the helm of Marion High at the 3A level, was hired by Hays CISD to take over at Lehman High.

2. Hays, Lehman athletics to face new foes in new-look district
District road trips to Leander and Cedar Park will be traded for jaunts into central, south and east Austin for Hays CISD next season – the result of the UIL completing its biennial realignment in February. The new 25-6A, which houses Hays and Lehman for the next two years, will feature Bowie, Anderson, Del Valle, Akins, Austin High, Lake Travis and Westlake. Out of the mix in the new 25-6A are Vandegrift, Leander and Vista Ridge, which were grouped into another district. Hays CISD’s new district foes are the same opponents they had faced in what was once 14-6A during the 2014-2016 seasons.

Lehman’s Mia Palomarez practices the deadlift prior to competing at the Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association meet. (Photo by Moses Leos III)

3. Lobo powerlifting overcomes adversity, reaches state meet
Perseverance, determination and a courageous attitude were the guiding principles for Lehman High’s girls powerlifting team, which once again sent multiple athletes to the Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association (THSWPA) state meet. But 2018’s success almost didn’t happen. On Feb. 14, former Lehman High powerlifting coach Jonathan Proud was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography after authorities alleged he asked for and received nude images of a minor he had taught at a previous school. The event shook the team to its core, and left assistant powerlifting coach Courtland Cepak to pick up the pieces. But instead of quitting, the Lobo program rose up and collectively soldiered on, performing and winning at the San Marcos Rattler invitational that same weekend. Over the next month, Lobo athletes racked up the medals as well as a district title.

Hays Rebel wide receiver Sam Scott stiff arms a San Antonio Reagan defender during the team’s bidistrict round playoff game at Comalander Stadium in San Antonio.(photo by
Nathan Latsha)

4. Rebel football returns to the playoffs
After a long four-year wait, the Hays High football team finally had the chance to put its Week 10 bye to good use. By virtue of a Week 10 Vista Ridge loss to Lake Travis, Hays secured the fourth and final playoff spot in 25-6A, which marked the team’s first playoff appearance since 2013. The Rebels marched back into the playoffs by virtue of an offense that was predicated on rushing the ball. Leading the way was running back Thailand Mayberry, who became the first Rebel running back in several years to eclipse the 1,000 yard rushing mark. In total, Hays’ offense rushed for 2,535 yards and 33 touchdowns. Hays’ run in the playoffs was short-lived, however, as they fell in a 26-25 heartbreaker to San Antonio Reagan in the bidistrict round.

Hays long jumper Dillon Baker poses with a sign showing his mark he hit to win the Region IV, 6A title at Alamo Stadium. (Photo by Moses Leos III)

5. Dillon Baker wins bronze at state
After falling short of a trip to state by mere inches in 2017, Hays Rebel long jumper Dillon Baker was determined to rectify that problem this spring. What transpired went beyond his own imagination as Baker claimed the bronze medal in the 6A boys long jump at the UIL state meet in May. Baker, who has been competing in long jump since he was in middle school, began his trek to state by taking second place at the 2018 Texas Relays in March. From there, Baker steamrolled his way to first place finishes at the district, area and regional meets in subsequent weeks. While at state, Baker set a new personal record by jumping 23-feet, 6-inches.

6. Lehman girls basketball scores landmark win over rival Hays
Amid a season of struggles, one moment shined bright for the Lehman Lady Lobos basketball team when it scored a stunning upset win over rival Hays Jan. 31. Lehman’s 41-27 victory was the program’s first over Hays since the 2011-2012 season, and is only the second time the Lady Lobo hoops program bested its crosstown rivals. Lady Lobo basketball also scored wins at the junior varsity and freshman levels, marking the first time in its history to have swept the Lady Rebels.

Lehman’s Nikayla Fitzgerald hits the dirt while at the UIL state track and field meet in Austin. (photo by Caleb Ruckel)

7. Lobo track and field sends trio to state meet
The bar has now been reset for Lehman High track and field after a trio of athletes made their marks at the UIL state meet in Austin in May. The showing marked the most athletes Lehman High track has sent to state in program history. Leading the charge was senior shotputter CeCe Watson, who made her second straight trip to state and finished with a throw of 38 feet, 10 inches at state. Joining Watson was freshman long jumper Nikayla Fitzgerald, who took on the best in 6A and came away with a leap of 18-feet, 1-inch. Lobo sprinter Bria Arrant closed a successful track season by running the 6A girls 100-meter dash in 12.85 seconds. Prior to state, Arrant secured the title of “The Fastest Woman in Region IV, 6A” by winning the regional title in the 100-yard dash in mid-May.

8. Rebel volleyball finishes with a postseason berth
A postseason finish was how the Hays volleyball program closed its 2017-2018 campaign, as well as a plethora of postseason awards. Rebel volleyball, which went 28-13 overall, finished in third place in the district standings and kept pace with state powers Vandegrift and Westlake. The finish marked the third-straight year Hays has made the playoffs. The Rebels were led by senior Kaitlyn Krafka, who took home 25-6A MVP honors after notching more than 400 kills during the season, and by junior Catherine Croft and sophomore Ryann Tello. Hays volleyball reached the bidistrict round of the playoffs, where they were defeated by San Antonio Reagan.

9. Hays softball reaches area round for second straight season
Also remaining consistent was the Hays softball team, which secured its third straight playoff appearance via a third place finish in district play. Hays, anchored by 25-6A pitcher of the year Maxine Valdez, finished with a 20-8 overall record and 8-3 in district play. Highlighting Hays’ year was the team’s four game win streak to close the regular season. That included a thrilling 9-8 comeback win over Vista Ridge, which was delayed by 17-plus hours due to a rainstorm the night before. Hays upended San Antonio Madison 11-1 in the bidistrict round of the playoffs, but were ousted by state semifinalist New Braunfels Canyon, which rallied to defeat the Rebels 5-2 on May 5.

10. Lobo softball shows improvement in 2018
Strong pitching, formidable hitting and the occasional flash of leather was how the Lehman Lobos softball team kept pace in a vaunted 25-6A field this season. The result was a program that missed the playoffs by only one game, which was a far cry from the team’s struggles a season previous. Aiding that effort was pitcher Lexi Bechtel, whose arm kept the Lobos competitive all year long. Behind Bechtel was a Lobo defense anchored by freshman infielder Ariana Ybarra, who earned first team all district honors last month. At the plate, the Lobos were led by Alyiah Tanguma and Seryna Avalos.

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