By Joseph Garcia
In the final high school ceremony at the old Panthers Den, Liberty Hill athletes and trainers were recognized for their outstanding championship efforts this school year. Hosted by the Liberty Hill All Sports Booster Club, Friday morning was the culmination of the 2012-2013 athletic seasons with a breakfast followed by an awards ceremony.
Cross country coach Kim Holt commenced the ceremony, handing out awards to both boys and girls. For the boys, junior Mitchell Germann won the MVP award after a season in which he was the only male state qualifier (placed 10th) from Liberty Hill. He also took home the Leadership Award.
Layne Bolin earned the Most Improved Award and Joe Lingren won the Heart Award.
Freshman Danielle Rimann won the MVP Award for the girls’ team, the Most Improved Award went to Maria Rodriguez, Chelsea Cole won the Leadership Award and Jordan Marsh earned the Heart Award. The entire 2012 girls cross country team was also recognized as a state qualifier.
The volleyball team was recognized with Coach Gretchen Peterson making the award announcements.
Samantha Rimann was recognized by the Texas Girls Coaches Association as an All-State team member and she was recognized for that accomplishment Friday by Coach Peterson. Rimann along with Peyton Redmond were named team Co-MVPs. Jaycie Pluenneke, who was sidelined late in the season with injury, won the Heart Award.
“We won district this year, so we are very proud of that. We went a couple rounds in the playoffs and lost to a very good Springtown team. The good news is we have a lot coming back. We’re very sad about the seniors who are graduating. Our seniors this year are Lexi Lucas, Emilie Philpott and Samantha Rimann,” Peterson said.
Next, it was football coach Jerry Vance’s turn to recognize the outstanding players from the 2012 season. He spoke of the new no-huddle offense implemented this year and complimented the players for picking up the hurry-up strategy so quickly.
“For all you teachers, understand that they are a lot smarter than they let you know because they were able to handle it,” Vance joked to a room of chuckles.
There were two offensive and two defensive awards given out.
Senior Jeremy DeLay won an offensive award for his play as offensive lineman and senior JJ Perez was recognized for his outstanding season running the ball at tailback. Defensively, senior Zach Perez was honored for being the best defensive lineman and fellow senior Jadon Durity-Boatright earned the other award for an outstanding season at defensive back. Durity-Boatright also won the Special Teams Award.
Kody Kindle earned the Academic Award, Dylan Carpenter won the Panther Spirit Award and Kyle Marshall won the Iron Man Award.
Trainer Sarah Baulch (Ms. B) then introduced all of the trainers to a huge round of applause for taking care of the athletes whether it was taping an ankle or hydrating a player.
Girls’ basketball Coach Matt Kirschner took the stage next and praised his team for surprising all the doubters and winning the District 8-3A Championship.
“The biggest thing is that they had to win the last seven district games (for the championship),” Kirschner said. “It was a great year and we’re looking forward to the future.”
Senior Maddie Metzger won the Best Free Throw Shooter Award. She led the team with 79 percent shooting. The Most Improved Player Award went to Ashlee Walker and Blair Lord. Senior Cera Dixon won the Defensive MVP Award and fellow senior Erin FitzGerald won the Heart Award. The Lady Panthers had Co-MVPs in sophomore Shelby Whitten and Metzger.
Next Coach Barry Boren announced the boys’ basketball awards. The fact that the ceremony took place in the gym where he has spent so much time obviously meant a lot to him.
“It’s quite fitting that we get to do this in the gym,” Boren began. “We played our last game here, that’s special. And this is the last time we’re going to do something ceremonial in this place. It’s been a good place for us and a good year, again.”
The Runnin’ Panthers went 30-5, making it the fifth year in a row the Liberty Hill boys have won 30 games. They also won their fifth straight District Championship.
“We are good for a couple of reasons,” Boren said. “We have good kids and we have good parents. The players have to allow themselves to be coached and the parents have to be brave enough to turn them over to the coaches to get that done.”
Senior point guard Shane LaCaille won the Best Free Throw Shooter Award (86%) after leading the state of Texas in Class 3A.
Newcomers of the Year were sophomore Callen Mikulencak, who won the same award for the district, and senior Tyler Eyre. Senior Durity-Boatright won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, as he did in football. Senior Jesse Cousins won the Most Improved Player Award.
The Spirit Award was shared this year. Junior Tristan Heidelberg was honored along with senior Josh White, who inspired a whole community by coming back from a gruesome injury in which he nearly lost a leg.
Just like the District 8-3A MVP Award, LaCaille and fellow senior Blake Danielak shared the MVP team award. The dynamic duo was a tough 1-2 punch that led the way for the Runnin’ Panthers this season.
“This team was the district champions and this is the second year in a row we’ve had that,” said softball Coach Charice Hankins, who was the next presenter. “We played in some big tournaments…and we placed first or second in all of those. (We had) a pretty offensively explosive team. Unfortunately, our playoffs didn’t allow us to go as far as we wanted to. But that is what it is.”
The Heart Award went to sophomore catcher Payton Walker. The Offensive and Defensive Newcomer of the Year Award went to Lynsey Mitchell.
Defensive Player of the Year was awarded to sophomore pitcher Samantha Junkin, who led the change in the circle for Liberty Hill. She has 21 wins and 180 strikeouts.
Offensive Player of the Year was shared by sophomore Kallen Floyd and senior Paige Lafferty who combined for 101 hits and 80 runs. Floyd also took home the Bambino Award – named after baseball Hall of Famer Babe Ruth – for leading the team with seven home runs.
The MVP Award was shared by the Lady Panthers’ three seniors: Presley Walker, Courtney Weems and Lafferty.
Next, Coach Mike Kristan had plenty to be thankful for after a memorable baseball season in which the Panthers started 0-9. Following the dismal start, they won 22 of their next 25 games to finish with a 22-12 overall record and the 8-3A District Championship (9-1) as well as becoming area champions.
“It really was a pretty neat year,” Kristan said. “We started off 0-9. We ended the year with 22 wins and 12 losses. So that’s pretty impressive. We are district champs; we played three rounds deep into the playoffs. It was pretty exciting and pretty neat stuff.”
Offensive Players of the Year were junior catcher Colby Schmidt and junior first baseman Mason Baty. The Defensive Players of the Year were all of Kristan’s pitchers: Cody Remore, Kannon Prior and Dane Rumley.
The Most Improved Player Award was shared by Heidelberg, who received the same award in basketball, and junior Jake Stalder. The Panther Spirit Award went to Tyler Cannon, Spencer Pennington and Austin Zamarripa.
The golf, tennis and powerlifting teams were also recognized Friday. Coach Robert Draper said the powerlifting team had the largest participation this year. A letter from golf coach Danny Knowles was read with his words thanking and praising each player. And tennis coach Anthony Escobar said, “They all worked really hard.”
Last but not least, the track and field awards were given out with Coach Peterson doing the honors for the girls and Coach Jimmy Duncan for the boys.
For the girls, the Achievement Award went to freshman Danielle Rimann and junior Madison Sharp. The Leadership Award went to Dixon, the Most Improved Award was won by Allee Nix and Maria Rodriguez won the Hard Work Award.
On the boys’ side, Joe Lingren and Logan Barnes won the Most Improved Award. And Will Fromme, Germann and Zack Stiles shared the Most Valuable Athlete Award.
Stiles took the podium towards the end of the ceremony and delivered a speech thanking all the coaches, teachers and administrators at LHHS.
“On behalf of the seniors, we will miss every single one of you all,” he said.
Finally, Coach Vance concluded the awards ceremony by thanking all those present and then turning to the senior athletes seated behind him on the court.
“The state championship goes through Liberty Hill and you,” Vance said to the senior athletes. “Your class has maintained and added to the level of excellence in Liberty Hill athletics. Be sure that your legacy will always shine brightly at Liberty Hill High School.”