Mustangs honor athletes at banquet

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Seniors Jewel Smith and R’Kelian Wiley were named athletes of the year during Madisonville High School’s annual athletic banquet on Monday.

“We’ve had a lot of success this year and we certainly want to salute these young people. You’ve done the job for us community-wide,” said Intermediate School Principal and sports announcer Marc Hodges, who is considered “the voice of the Madisonville Mustangs.”

Athletic Director Rusty Nail, who began work on Dec. 2, said he’s excited about what the future holds.

“We look forward to carrying this through the summer and being competitive in the fall,” he said.

Coaches representing tennis, golf, track, softball, baseball, powerlifting, basketball, soccer, cross country, volleyball and football each approached the podium to recognize the young athletes, many of whom won district and statewide honors this year.

Junior varsity and varsity tennis teams were district champions. The golf team was second in the region and 10th in the state, and sophomore Sam Bennett was the state’s gold medalist.

“It was a privilege to coach these young men,” said golf coach Jerry Hopkins, who is retiring this year.

Girls varsity track coach Lance Byrd said the team set new records, while the boys track coach Russell Smith noted the team was recognized as area qualifiers. The state track meet is planned this weekend in Austin.

Head softball coach Ashley Segler said the team, which ended up 23-10 after losses to Rusk last week, has gone the farthest in the playoffs in school history.

“This group of girls really overcame everything,” she said.

The team’s four seniors were honored as the team MVPs.

Varsity baseball coach Justin Grimes commented that his team is in a unique position to be celebrating at the sports banquet while still in the playoffs. The bi-district champions face Hudson on Thursday and Friday.

“We’ve got some unfinished business this weekend,” Grimes said. “We’re going to do something that’s never been done before.”

The coach announced that Kyle Poe is the team’s MVP and said that All-District honors would be released when the season is complete.

Powerlifting coach Lu Olvera also had kind words for his students.

“A lot of our athletes do more than one sport so it’s great to see our guys competing and competing well,” he said.

Head basketball coach Shana Taylor complimented her staff, which includes Lance Byrd and Melissa Padgett, noting that they established “great chemistry” this year.

“This was supposed to be a rebuilding year,” she said. “I have a lot of hopes and dreams as far as next year goes.”

Tra’Dayja Smith was named the team’s MVP.

Coach Brad Taylor recognized the JV basketball team, and Brian Thurmond introduced members of the varsity team, which finished 14-7 and were district champions.

“We had a young team this year,” he said. “One thing we talked about is you’ve got to have good senior leadership.”

Thurmond pointed out that senior powerhouse Jawan Lewis was out for a month due to injuries.

“The team could have folded,” he said, adding that Dru’Paul Merchant, Keion Salas and R’Kelian Wiley stepped up to lead the team.

Lauren Lindsey and Baltazar Reyes spoke about coaching the school’s first-ever soccer teams.

“It was a privilege to be part of the team in its first year,” Lindsey said.

Reyes added that he wished the student athletes a successful future.

“I’m really proud of how you competed against well-established soccer programs,” he said.

Cross country coach Jo Dorman complimented her teams, sharing that “every young man and lady improved their running times” over the course of the season. Odalys Hernandez and Thomas Hudson were named the top runners.

Melissa Padgett reviewed the varsity volleyball season, explaining that the girls were put through rigorous workouts to prepare.

“What I put these girls through is a feat in and of itself,” she said. “They never gave up on me. No one can take away what y’all did in two-a-days.”

Quincey Surface was named the volleyball team’s MVP.

JV football coach Sheldon Moor celebrated the team’s 9-0-1 season, saying that the one tie still stings a little.

“We’re going to learn from those lessons and live to play another day,” he said.

Varsity football assistant coach Russell Smith acknowledged that “things didn’t work out like we wanted” on the field this year.

“We have one expectation — to get a [championship] ring,” he said. “One day we’re gonna get it.”

Captains Awards — voted on by their peers — were given to Robert Culbreth and Kyle Poe.

The Coaches’ Award went to Steve Robinson.

“He may not be the best but he busts his tail every day,” Smith said. “He shows up and does his best.”

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