2019 was one heck of a way to close out a decade in Austin County’s sports history. From the top of Bellville to the southern-most point in Wallis, it was The Sealy News’ honor to bring you the sports news for the county and there was certainly no shortage of tremendous accomplishments.
This past calendar year had numerous achievements not only on the district and regional levels but also at the state- and nation-wide levels with another border-breaking performance to boot.
The staff compiled the top 10 stories of the year on both the news and sports side and we hope you enjoy this recap to find out what the top sports story was this year.
Until then, we pick up with #4 and the athletes that represented their schools on the state level.
At the beginning of each year, all athletes’ sights are focused on the biggest prize of them all; a state championship.
Although the slightest minority ends up reaching that top level of competition, even fewer reach the ultimate destination and walk away victorious but everything worth having doesn’t come easy.
So the work is put in to help them get there and succeed at each level until the best is needed at the biggest time and in Austin County, there were more than a few performances that led local athletes to the biggest stage in their respective sports.
Faith Academy cross country runner Brianna Gallaher completed a high school career only very few have ever done, winning state championships all four years she competed.
Running in the Texas Association of Patriarchal and Private Schools (TAPPS), Gallaher won all four cross country state championships she competed in and added even more medals in the spring track season, closing her career with the 1600- and 3200-meter championships as a senior for titles No. 6 and 7.
The list of other cross country runners to finish their high school careers as a four-time state champion is very short and includes only four other names since 1991 and three of them are women.
Gallaher signed a National Letter of Intent to run for the Texas Lutheran Bulldogs although she was also going to participate in the choir and served as a lifeguard in the summer break.
Staying on the spring track circuit, the Sealy Tigers and Brazos Cougars also sent representatives to the track’s biggest stage, Mark A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas at Austin.
A trio of Tigers qualified in the hurdles, discus throw and triple and long jump events while a pair of Cougars cracked the list for the 3200-meter run and long jump competitions.
In between fouled attempts on his first and third jumps, Brazos senior Luke Demny registered his best long jump of the afternoon, traveling 20 feet, 8.5 inches to register ninth in the state in Class 2A in his final act as a Cougar.
On the other end of the spectrum, Makinzy Kneip registered a trip to the state meet in her first year at the high school level and finished the 3200-meter race in 13:31.18 to solidify a similar ninth-overall finish in the state.
The lone female participant from Sealy was junior Raegan Newsome, who ran in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 15.43 which was good enough for a seventh-place finish.
Back in the jumping pit, Sealy senior Ivan Bolden made his return to the ultimate destination and competed in both the long and triple jump, taking seventh overall in the former event with a jump of 21 feet, 1.25 inches. In the triple jump, he compiled a leap of 44 feet, 10.75 inches on his first go-around to give him a sixth-place overall finish and put another point toward the Tigers’ total.
Also scoring points at the state meet was junior discus thrower Luke Thielemann who catapulted himself to bronze with a throw of 162 feet, 11 inches to hopefully fulfill some expectations while also setting the bar for a possible comeback.
“It feels great because my mom and my dad both graduated from Sealy so I was just trying to make them proud,” Thielemann said in an interview after the state meet. “Next year hopefully I can make it back but I would also like to break our school record.”
With those being the only boy representatives of Sealy, the seven team points earned the No. 33 spot in the state overall.
Mignery makes state
Just qualifying for her first TAPPS 1A state tournament wasn’t going to be good enough for freshman Genesis Mignery.
“I never thought I would get this far in my first year of competing, I just wanted to qualify for regionals!” stated Mignery.
She won, 8-4, over Baytown in the first round, took down San Antonio Legacy, 8-1, and battled back to take an 8-6 decision over Orange County to send her to the state finals as a freshman.
“If there was ever a test of Gen’s tenacity, that match (against OC) was it,” head coach Josh McLain said.
In the finals, she met with another freshman from Fredericksburg Ambleside but ultimately fell, 8-2, although showed a bright future for her next three years for Faith Academy.
Faith hits threepeat
Although they came just shy of their ultimate goal, the Faith Academy Lady Knight volleyball team made its third appearance in the state tournament this year after a 16th consecutive district championship.
“We had a great journey and finished with 30 wins again and a third straight trip to the state tournament, not many teams can say that,” said head coach Josh McClain. “I feel for this team that they couldn’t end the third trip with a championship. My hope is everything that went into this season will be a life lesson to them and they grow from the wins, losses and everything in between.”
Regan Woodley and Marissa Przyborski earned all-tournament team honors for their efforts in guiding the Lady Knights through another postseason.
Garcias named all-state
For the 19th time in the last 21 years under head coach Eric Stuessel, the Brazos Cougar cross country team had representatives at the state championships between a full girls’ team as well as an individual boy runner.
All year, Rubi and Esmeralda Garcia powered the Cougarettes and it was no different on the biggest stage of the year with the latter earning 10th overall and the former finishing in 14th.
For her spot in the top 10, Esmeralda became just the fifth individual female medal winner in school history to go along with her all-state honor bestowed by the Cross Country Coaches Association of Texas. With her top-15 finish, Rubi also earned the all-state distinction, and both will return to bolster Stuessel’s squad in 2020.
On the other side, Zachary Cortez once again qualified for the state championship for the second year in a row and took 74th overall with time left in a Brazos uniform.
Hernandez earns crack at state
With a late scratch in the runners’ list for the Class 4A cross country state championships, the man on the cusp was Sealy junior Vladimir Hernandez, who, at first, didn’t exactly believe his coach.
“There’s no way, he’s pulling a prank,” Hernandez said of his initial thoughts following a conversation with head coach Anthony Branch.
However, thinking his season was over, Hernandez had hung up his spikes and entered offseason mode but still jumped at the chance to compete at the highest level.
“After I cross the finish line I was like, ‘Wow, I wish I had more time to train,’” he recounted. “I thought I never want to take breaks off like that again but it made me realize how much I love running still.”