By DAVID CLAYBOURN
The year 2013 was very special for athletes from Emory Rains, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Commerce and Leonard.
Rains sophomore Charlotte Brown made state history and earned national recognition in 2013 when she became the first legally blind athlete to qualify for the University Interscholastic League State Track and Field Championships in Austin. Brown advanced in the Class 3A pole vault as a wildcard after clearing 11 feet 6 inches at the Region II-3A meet in Commerce.
Brown, who listens to a count from her coach Derek Smith as she speeds down the runway before planting the pole in the box and vaulting over a bar that she cannot see, cleared the first three heights at state, 9-6, 10-0 and 10-6 without a miss, but missed three times at 11 feet to finish eighth. She had hoped to win a medal but still received a standing ovation from the crowd at Mike A. Myers Stadium.
“I had a little bit of an off day today,” Brown said. “I wasn’t sad.”
Brown noted the hundreds of state athletes who wished they could have competed at state but didn’t make it. Her first appearance at state also didn’t faze Brown, who is a veteran of junior track and field competition.
“I’m used to pressure,” she said. “All the noise and everything. I’m used to it. It was a good day.”
She later received the 2013 Section 6 National High School Spirit of Sport Award during a special ceremony on the infield. Joining Brown were her family and friends from Emory.
Brown made national headlines with her accomplishments and was featured on ABC World News Tonight and appeared with her mother, Stori, and her new guide dog, Vader, on the Katie Couric Show.
A&M-Commerce’s football team, guided by new head coach Colby Carthel, made an amazing turnaround in 2013. The Lions, led by quarterback Tyrik Rollison and defensive tackle Charlie Tuaau, went 7-5 in 2013 with victories over two nationally-ranked teams, No. 25 Delta State (45-37) and No. 23 Tarleton State (22-20). The Lions earned their first bowl bid since 1958, falling to Harding University in the Live United Texarkana Bowl game in Texarkana, Ark.
A&M-Commerce also made national news with a new Lion head logo on the artificial turf at Memorial Stadium. The golden logo measures 50 yards by 50 yards.
Commerce senior Buck Wilson finished his stellar career for the Tigers in 2013 by winning the gold medal in the Class 2A triple jump competition and a silver in the 300-meter hurdles at the UIL state meet in Austin. Wilson leaped 47 feet 10 3/4 inches on his second attempt to capture the triple jump, though competing in less than ideal conditions following a two-hour storm delay.
Wilson said the conditions were tough “but I had to fight through it.”
Wilson dipped under 39 seconds for the first time in the 300 hurdles, clocking a time of 38.80 to finish about .4 behind winner Colton Chadbourne of Winona (38.44).
Wilson then headed to Southeast Missouri State to play football.
A&M-Commerce’s women’s basketball team also made a big turnaround during the 2012-13 season under head coach Nicole Anderson. The Lions went 11-17, including an 80-79 victory over No. 2 seeded Abilene Christian in the opening round of the Lone Star Conference basketball tournament in Allen. A&M-Commerce had won only two games in each of the two previous seasons and Anderson earned coach of the year honors in the LSC.
The Leonard Tigers, directed by Shane Fletcher, made school history in 2013 by reaching the Class 2A Division II state semifinals in football for the first time. Leonard, which finished third in District 7-2A, won playoff games over Edgewood, Blooming Grove, S&S Consolidated and Cooper before falling to eventual state champion Cisco in the state semifinals. Leonard placekicker Ty McKinney, who was also named to the all-state baseball team in 2013, earned first-team all-state honors. Running back Solomon Titus and offensive lineman Dylan Pelton were also recognized on the all-state team.
It was another season of frustration for the Greenville Lions’ football team in 2013 as they finished at 0-10 for the fourth straight season. The Lions barely missed ending that streak during a 56-49 loss to Frisco Heritage in double overtime.
The Greenville Lady Lions repeated as District 19-4A soccer champions for the third straight year. Though Maddy Crabtree scored the Lady Lions’ first two goals in postseason play, they dropped their bi-district playoff match to Little Elm, 4-2. Crabtree went on to play for Texas Tech’s nationally-ranked soccer team during the fall of 2013.
Here’s some of the other local sports highlights of 2013:
— Accurate spare shooting helped Mike Scroggins win his 39th PBA regional bowling title at Shenaniganz in Greenville. Scroggins converted eight of nine spares to beat Andy Patterson, 178-174, in the championship game of the 2013 PBA Greenville Southwest region tournament Scroggins won despite throwing only one strike in the final game.
— Greenville High School was the host for the First Annual Chicken Express all-star basketball games. Greenville’s own Dartannon Wilson poured in 34 points to earn most valuable player honors while leading the North to a 114-85 victory over the South in the boys game. Alexis Mason of McKinney North captured MVP honors for the girls while leading the North to a 90-86 victory.
— After finishing second in last year’s race, Brandon Womack of Lone Oak vowed to return in 2013 and win the Caddo Mills Fox Trot 5K race.
Womack kept his promise, winning the 19th edition of the 3.1-mile race in record time: 16 minutes 18 seconds. Womack broke the course record of 16:30.72 set by last year’s winner Barry Hill. Hill, a hometown guy who’d won the last four Fox Trots, did not run in this year’s race, much to the disappointment of Womack.
— After missing the cut in an Oklahoma golf tournament, Brian Rowell did not go home empty handed to Lafayette, La. Rowell stopped by the Monster Ball Craig Bowers Memorial Golf Tournament in Greenville, staying long enough to win the tournament and split the $1,500 first-place check with partner, Michael Meyer, his caddy on the Adams tour. Rowell and Meyer shot a 16-under 56 at Oak Creek Country Club to go with a 10-under 60 at Wright Park Municipal. Rowell and Meyer won the championship flight by four strokes with their total of 116, unseating last year’s champion Eric Kelly and his partner, Matt Neyra. The event is named for Craig “Monster” Bowers, an avid golfer, former basetball and basketball player, assistant basketball coach and an assistant principal at Royse City High School who died in a skiing accident in 2012.
— Family, friends, former students said goodbye to Lee Leonard, who passed away in 2013. Though he was born in New Mexico, the 6-5 Leonard became one tall Texan who made his presence known on a basketball court, golf course, baseball diamond and softball field, plus in a classroom and in the great outdoors. He coached golf and taught mathematics for nearly 30 years at Greenville High School.
— Campbell’s Lady Indians upset No. 3 state-ranked Dodd City 52-45 in the Class A Division II area basketball playoffs. The Lady Indians avenged two previous losses to Dodd City this season to advance to the regional quarterfinals. Haley Davidson pumped in 18 points to lead Campbell, including two free throws with two seconds remaining to seal the victory.
— Hunter Jordan pumped in 30 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer to lead the Boles Hornets to a 56-54 Class A Division I area basketball playoff win over Lindsay. The 22-7 Hornets advanced to the regional quarterfinals. Jordan later earned MVP honors in the First Annual Chicken Express all-star game in Greenville.
— Carlie Jo Wendland became the third sister from Bland to compete at the University Interscholastic League state golf tournament after finishing second at the Region III-A tournament. C.J. followed in the footsteps of her sisters, Tera and Kelady Wendland.