By Joseph Garcia
The University Interscholastic League became accustomed to hosting Liberty Hill High School sports at the state level in 2011-2012.
Liberty Hill’s most recent trip to a UIL State Tournament was the Lady Panther softball team, capping the eighth time this athletic year the school was represented at the top high school echelon.
It all began in the fall when both the boys and girls cross country teams advanced to the State Meet in November in Round Rock.
On the girls’ side, Alabama-bound Susie Kemper won the individual gold medal, leading the team to a fourth-place finish in a competitive field with a time of 11:42.30. She was followed by teammates Chelsea Cole who finished 12 at 12:41.20 and Lauren Jackson (13:07.90), Amanda Kelley (13:25.20) and Kourtney Bevers (13:27.30).
The boys team won the bronze medal. Mitchell Germann led the boys finishing in sixth place with a time of 16:52.10. Following Germann was Cameron Cardwell in seventh running a time of 16:52.70 and Crozier with a top-10 result at the No. 9 spot running a 16:54.80.
Rounding out the boys, who finished behind Kaufman and Sanger, were Stephen Waller-De la Rosa at 17:16.10 and Steven Palmer at 18:29.80.
Transitioning from fall, winter and into spring, the Lady Panther basketball team made its mark, returning to the State Tournament for the first time since 2004.
After playing its way through to the Region IV Finals, Liberty Hill faced off against its biggest rival in Burnet for the rights to go to Austin. As they did in their previous two matchups, the Lady Panthers came out on top, this time 58-36 to become Regional Champions.
Liberty Hill went on to play against the eventual State Champions in Abilene Wylie, losing 65-52, snapping a 22-game winning streak.
The Runnin’ Panthers nearly qualified for the State Tournament, but lost in overtime to Corpus Christi Miller 61-59.
Liberty Hill was next represented at a State Tournament when junior Chesney Goza qualified in tennis in early May.
Goza won the District 25-3A title and placed second in the Region IV tournament, qualifying her for State in Austin.
She lost 6-0 to the eventual State Champion in Delaney Schroeder who hails, of course, from Abilene Wylie.
Also in May, Liberty Hill track and field sent five athletes to compete at the State Meet in Austin, three of whom came back with medals.
Beginning with Jadon Durity-Boatright on Friday, May 11, and ending with Susie Kemper on Saturday, May 12, Liberty Hill competed for individual State titles.
Durity-Boatright qualified for both the long and triple jumps.
His first event was the long jump, in which he placed ninth with his best jump being 21 feet-6 inches Later that evening, the Liberty Hill junior competed in his best event – the triple jump – and leapt to a third-place finish and a bronze medal with an attempt of 47-1/2.
Senior Jessica Green competed in the high jump and was jumping smoothly until the bar was raised to 5-6. Three misses pitted Green tied for fourth-place with Kaylyn Schultz of Celina.
Next, Kemper participated in the 800-meter run and was passed up down the stretch for a fourth-place finish, clocking a time of 2 minutes 17.40 seconds.
Moments later, Cameron Cardwell and Andrew Waller-De la Rosa lined up for the final time as Panthers against each other in the 800-meter run.
Cardwell finished with the better result and a bronze medal with a time of 1:54.36 while Waller-De la Rosa ended up placing sixth, running the 800-meter in 1:58.41.
Capping the day off was Kemper in her best event, the 1600-meter run.She earned silver and was just edged out by Diana Moreno of Brookshire Royal by a mere .31 seconds for the gold medal. Moreno ran a 5:10.07 while Kemper finished at 5:10.35.
Finally school history was made on Saturday, May 26, when the Lady Panthers completed a sweep of West Columbia (3-2, 2-0), sending Liberty Hill to its first UIL State Softball Tournament.
The Lady Panthers fell, however, to Henderson 3-0 on Thursday, May 31, ending their season one day before graduation.
In all, I expect the Liberty Hill Panthers to make a few more returns to UIL State Tournaments next year as juniors Goza and Durity-Boatright are now seniors.
The softball team also has a plethora of weapons coming back, headlined by now sophomore pitcher Samantha Junkin and seniors Paige Lafferty, Courtney Weems and Presley Walker.
Also returning for the Lady Panthers will be sophomores Kallen Floyd and Payton Walker, who both made significant impacts as freshmen.